Despite only scoring 21 points in the first half, Skipper Bologna managed to come back and clinch a key Group B road win by beating Krka 58-66 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia on Wednesday night. Skipper, who trailed by 16 in the third quarter, improved to 5-3 in Group D, keeping its Top 16 chances intact. Krka falls to 1-7, with almost no mathematical chances to get to the next round. Gianluca Basile led the winners with 23 points, hitting 5 of 11 three-pointers and making all the big shots in the final minutes of the game. Gianmarco Pozzecco added 15 points and 6 assists, while Hanno Mottola scored 10, all in the third quarter, when he powered a 1-14 Skipper run which brought the guests back to life. Clarence Gilbert led Krka with 17 points, while Marton Bader and Rick Rickert scored 12 apiece for the hosts, who made just 13 of their 24 attempts from the free throw line.
Both teams struggled to score points early in the first quarter, as Rick Rickert's layup in the opening play of the game were the only points scored over three minutes. Novo Mesto's man-to-man defense excelled, forcing multiple Skipper turnovers, but the hosts could not find their rhythm in the offensive end. A layup by Thomas Van Den Spiegel made it a one-point game, 7-6, after 8 minutes. Skipper committed many early fouls, allowing a rain of free throws in the final minutes of the opening period. At the charity stripe, Rickert knocked down two free throws and Duscak followed with two more to start a 7-0 run in the final moments of the first quarter. Duscak capped off the Krka partial with a steal and fast break layup that put the hosts ahead by 8 points. Rickert made a wild block at the buzzer, and Krka left Skipper with just 6 points scored at the end of the first quarter, as the hosts were ahead 14-6 after 10 minutes of play.
The visitors from Bologna continued their struggles in the second quarter, finishing the first half hitting just 3 of 15 three-point attempts and 4 of 15 two-point attempts. Skipper was ice cold to start the second quarter, as they did not make a field goal through the first three minutes of the period. Meanwhile, a fast break layup by Clarence Gilbert, a five-meter jumper by Rickert and a put-back dunk by Bader gave Krka a 12-point lead, 20-8, midway through this period. Pozzecco, with a put-back layup, made it a 10-point game, but the "Atomic Fly" wasn't able to carry his teammates by himself. With his teammates missing from all over the court, Pozzecco got involved in a wild shootout with Gilbert in the final minutes of the half. Both players nailed triples, but Gilbert's third straight triple gave the hosts a 13-point halftime lead, 34-21.
Basile opened the third quarter with a three-pointer, sending a message that Skipper was not going to give up. But just when the guests started to find a rhythm a jump hook by Rickert ignited a 6-0 Krka run that extended Krka's lead to 16, 40-24. Skipper needed a go-to guy and they found it in Hanno Mottola. Despite missing a two-handed dunk, the Finnish power forward scored 10 points on 3 baskets in the low post, a fast break dunk and 2 free throws to power a 1-14 run that made it a three-point game, 41-38. Skipper even cut the local lead to one point, 42-41, after 3 free throws by Pozzecco, before Duscak and Bader each scored to give Krka a five-point lead, 46-41, entering the fourth.
To start the fourth quarter, Bader extended the Krka lead to 7 points, 48-41, with a basket in the low post, but soon Skipper turned things around, going on a 2-9 run that tied the score with 7 minutes to play. Novo Mesto coach Petar Skansi, who previously coached Skipper in the 1990s, called a timeout and his team switched to 3-2 defense, but Skipper was on the rise. Coming out of the timeout, Van Den Spiegel made a layup, followed by a three-pointer by Delfino which gave the hosts a three-point lead, 52-55. Rickert, with back-to-back turnaround jumpers, helped Krka to get back the lead at 56-55, midway through the final period but that was the last time Krka would be in control. Matjaz Smodis stepped up against his former team, grabbing 2 key offensive rebounds and scoring 3 points in a 0-6 Skipper run, in which Basile drilled another three, to put Skipper up by 5, 56-61. The hosts failed to hit any field goals in the final two minutes. Menawhile, another three by Basile and two free throws by Pozzecco sealed the win for the guests, who were backed by around 50 fans who travelled all the way from Bologna.
Wednesday, January 7, 2004