Another step in the return of Olympiacos to its accustomed status was completed Thursday when it roared to its second consecutive home win, 80-66, over visiting Virtus Bologna in Group C. Five double-figure scorers were enough for the Reds to capitalize on a good effort in the face of second-half comeback attempts by Virtus. Maurice Evans hit a pair of three-pointers in a 10-2 fourth-quarter run that decided the outcome and led the home team with 20 points. Nenad Markovic added 19 off the bench, DeMarco Johnson 18, Christos Harissis and Ignacio De Miguel 10 each for the winners. Virtus got 23 points, including 4 of 5 three-pointers from Antoine Rigaudeau, while David Andersen, Derrick Dial and Charlie Bell contributed 10 each. The result left both teams tied at 3-4, part of a three-way tie for fourth place with Adecco Asvel.
Antoine Rigaudeau took advantage of the mismatch he had against Christos Harissis and he set out to lead Virtus from the beginning of the game. The French guard scored 10 of the first 12 points for his team, good enough for Virtus to cause major problems to Olympiakos. The Reds tried to be competitive but they could not, due mainly to the great performance by Rigaudeau, contrasted with its own low percentage shooting. By comparison, Virtus took a 12-21 lead shooting 8 for 11 on field goals, but now Rigaudeau committed his second personal foul, so head coach Bogdan Tanjevic had to call him on the bench. With Olympiakos so far behind, Lefteris Subotic called Nenad Markovic to replace Harissis and the experienced shooting guard scored 4 quick points to cut the margin to 16-21. The end of the first quarter found Virtus 7 poins ahead, 16-23, with 7 players who already had scored.
With the beginning of the second quarter, the scenario of the game changed dramatically. Harissis returned on the court and, as Markovic scored 7 points in a row, Olympiakos came up big. Virtus didn't have an immediate answer, so DeMarco Johnson tied the game, 23-23, and the Reds started to use their momentum to dominate. The Olympiacos run would reach 11-0, which allowed it to lead 27-23. Rigaudeau would return and hit a three-pointer for 31-28, but Harissis had his own confidence now, and didn't allow the Olympiacos lead to fall below 7 points margin, 37-30, at the close of the first half.
After intermission, it was Virtus's turn to play its game. The two-time Euroleague champs fired up an 0-8 run, good enough to cut the margin to the minimum, 37-36. At the same time, Maurice Evans was missing for Olympiakos and Harissis had committed his third personal foul. David Andersen hit the jumper that tied the game, 40-40, after 24 minutes of play, capping a Virtus run of 3-12. Olympiacos didn't panic and despite the fourth personal foul committed by Harissis, regained its double-digit margin. The Reds had the opportunity to create fast breaks opportunities, Evans found his good shots, Johnson dominated under the boards and the result was a quick turnaround to 52-42 after 26 minutes. Tanjevic decided to shift his defense from individual to a 2-3 zone, but that didn't cause major problems to the Reds, who finished the third quarter ahead by 57-48.
The fourth quarter arrived and it was Rigaudeau time once again. The captain of Virtus sank 2 of 2 three-pointers in an 8-2 run in favor of his team that reduced the deficit to 59-56 at the same time Harissis left the court for good with his fifth foul. Virtus was ready to come back, but Maurice Evans denied it! In front of his parents, who came from the United States to see him, the Olympiacos swingman answered Rigaudeau, hitting 2 for 2 from downtown himself for a deciding run of 10 for Olympiacos, which now led by 11 points, 69-58. That pratically ended any discussion about the winner, and indeed, Olympiacos kept rolling to a big victory and a new place among the Top 16 contenders in Group D.
Thursday, December 5, 2002