Olimpija upsets UNICS for first home win
Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana registered its first home win this season by holding off Group C leader UNICS Kazan by 81-76 on Wednesday, denying the visitors early qualification to the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16. Olimpija's second consecutive win after raised its record to 2-5, while UNICS now stands at 5-2. Olimpija was ahead from the game's fifth minute forward, and used a 13-0 run to lead by 17 shortly before halftime. UNICS reeled it back to 65-62 before Olimpija found the will to finish it off. Center Mikael Hopkins exploded for 20 points to lead the winners. Ryan Boatright added 14, Codi Miller-McIntyre 13 and Jaka Blazic 10. UNICS saw Jamar Smith hit 6 of 10 triples for 26 points, but Errick McCollum was held to 6 before leaving the game late with an injured eye. Raymar Morgan added 15 points and Alex Tyus 12 for the visitors.
UNICS took a quick 5-8 lead before Miller-McIntyre's triple and layup put the hosts up 12-10 and Hopkins dropped a pair of baskets to make it 20-14. Morgan replied with consecutive baskets for UNICS, but Blazic had the last word as Olimpija led 26-20 after 10 minutes. Boatright added a jumper before Hopkins and Filip Kruslin lifted the lead into double digits at 32-22. Hopkins and Andrija Stepanovic inside and Filip Kruslin from deep ballooned the difference to 39-22 before UNICS reeled it back a bit with Smith hitting a triple and Tyus dunking for a 41-31 at halftime score. Morgan and Smith continued the UNICS recovery at 44-36 early in the third quarter. Miller-McIntyre and Boatright responded before Hopkins buried his second triple of the half to restore a double-digit lead, 54-43. A broken play ended with Boatright drilling a triple at 60-48, to which he added 2 technical free throws as UNICS head coach Dimitris Priftis was ejected. Evgeny Kolesnikov buried a corner triple for UNICS but Olimpija still held a 63-51 advantage after 30 minutes. Smith cut the difference to 63-56 with a swished triple early in the fourth quarter and kept hitting them until UNICS had gotten within 65-62 with more than 7 minutes left. Blazic and Boatright used free throws to sustain Olimpija until Edo Muric made it 75-64. When Blazic hit a second-chance three-pointer, it was 78-66, with under 4 minutes left. Smith hit his sixth triple from the corner and then fed Tyus for an alley-oop dunk to suddenly make it 78-72. Maik Zirbes converted a three-point play next and Olimpija's defense finished the job down the stretch.
It was a close game until Hopkins opened the second quarter with a triple, which lit the fuse on a 13-0 Olimpija run in which Kruslin buried 2 more shots from the arc for a game-high lead of 39-22. UNICS had plenty of time and firepower to respond, but was never able to tie or lead after that.
Hopkins established his inside game early and then went out to drop triples like a guard, making 3 of 5 from downtown in the middle quarters. He compiled all of his 20 points already with 3:52 left in the third quarter and didn't need to score after that. He was 3-for-3 on free throws and hit 4 of 5 two-pointers for a near-perfect shooting night.
Making free throws count
Olimpija entered the game with the EuroCup's third-worst free-throw accuracy, 66.1%, which hurt while losing three games by 7 points or less. Against UNICS, that figure jumped to 20 for 23, or 87%, proving again that free throws count.
Olimpija tries to make it three wins in a row when it welcomes Germani Brescia Leonessa to Ljubljana on Tuesday of Round 8 next week. The next night, Wednesday, UNICS tries to bounce back with a visit to Kazan from Nanterre 92.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019