Pau-Orthez lived up to the pressure of Thursday's big game against Cibona, as it dismissed its guests from Croatia, 105-89, after leading for the entire match. Pau's victory leaves the two teams tied in the middle of Group A with identical 4-4 records. Fabien Dubos was the highman for Pau, which featured five players in double figures. Dubos' 21 points were backed by Mate Skelin's season-high 18 points and 8 rebounds, while Dragan Lukovski had 17, Laurent Foirest scored 15 points and Artur Drozdov chipped in with 14 points. Cibona was led by Andrija Zizic and Scoonie Penn, who each scored 17 points, while Jurica Golemac chipped in with 11 points. Pau knocked down 12 of 20 three-point attempts and converted nine more free throws than Cibona. The French champions opened up a six-point lead in the first quarter, which it extended to 12 points at halftime. Cibona cut the lead to one-point in the third quarter but Pau went on a game-deciding run to close the third and their lead never slipped into single digits in the final period.
Pau-Orthez got off to a 7-2 start on baskets from Lukovski, Foirest and Dubos. Golemac and Penn dropped in multiple baskets to keep Cibona close, but Lukovski's second triple of the game gave host Pau a 14-9 advantage in the fourth minute. Cibona risked falling behind by a wide margin early on, as Nate Erdmann dropped in a triple and then knocked down 2 free throws which sent Pau's lead up to 9 points, 25-16. Cibona curtailed Pau thanks to another Penn basket combined with a Marijan Mance jump shot, but Skelin continued his hot play around the basket, giving Pau a 30-23 lead. Skelin finished the first quarter with 9 points and Pau was ahead 32-26.
Neither team was able to gain leverage early in the second quarter. Pau scored the first 4 points, but newly-signed Cibona forward Josip Vrankovic responded with 2 consecutive baskets that closed the Pau lead to 6 points, 38-32. Skelin and Zizic then exchanged several baskets. Zizic's lay-up in the 16th minute cut Cibona's deficit to 4 points, but Skelin responded immediately on the other end. Zizic's next baskets in the 18th minute were shadowed by two more Skelin hoops until Pau boosted its lead to 49-40 thanks to a Frederic Fauthoux triple. Pau took a 54-42 advantage into halftime after Drozdov's three-pointer in the final minute of the half.
Slaven Rimac finally came alive to open the third quarter for Cibona, nailing a triple which brought Pau's lead back to single digits. Cibona then reeled off 8 consecutive points, including 6 by Golemac, in an 0-11 run over the quarter's first 3 minutes. With the score 54-53, Pau went on to outscore Cibona 22-9 over remainder of the quarter. Lukovski keyed the rally, nailing 6 quick points, and Foirest closed the door on Cibona at the end of the quarter by nailing a triple which brought the balance to 76-62 at the close of the period.
Cibona scrambled to catch up at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but instead Pau increased its lead to 82-64 by scoring the first two baskets. Zizic strung together consecutive hoops in the game's 33rd minute to cut the lead to 84-72 but Dubos responded with a triple that pushed the lead back up to 15 points. Penn scored Cibona's next 4 points but his effort was drowned out by another Dubos basket that made the score 94-75 and with just over 3 minutes to play Cibona had little hope of changing the pace of the contest. Each Cibona basket was quickly matched by Pau and the lead was up to 20 points, 101-81 after Drozdov sank a three-pointer. With the outcome apparent, Pau's youngest player, 17-year old Johan Petro, stepped on to the court and scored some points to help put the game in the books.
Thursday, January 8, 2004