Virtus Segafredo Bologna may be undefeated with one game left in the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16, but the come-from-behind overtime victory at Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana gave the team a much-needed lesson in its hunt for the title. Virtus wasted a 14-point second-quarter lead and then had to fight back from 9 points down with less than 3 minutes to play in regulation to force overtime and eventually pull off a 98-108 win over Olimpija.
"The last three minutes is something that every coach can be proud of. I’m proud of my team the way they responded. It was a tough game for us but we showed character and a lot of personality," Virtus coach Sasa Djordjevic said. "I think our team needed a game like this to grow, to understand what is needed to win on courts like this against teams like this who know how to play basketball and where to go and how to attack you aggressively."
Olimpija came into the game undefeated at Stozice Arena and the hosts looked poised to hand Virtus its first loss of the season. But Virtus refused to give up down 84-75 with 2:48 minutes to play. Marco Belinelli hit a big three-pointer and then Milos Teodosic converted 4 free throws on an unsportsmanlike foul by Luka Rupnik to even the game. And down three, Virtus managed to get an offensive rebound and Belinelli drained another triple with 1.9 seconds left to force overtime.
Kyle Weems and Stefan Markovic opened the extra session with three-pointers and Olimpija’s will had been broken.
"I am proud of the way we grinded it out and stuck with it. Not every win is as pretty. Sometimes it has to get ugly. I’m just happy we were able to win this game,” said Weems, who finished with a team-high 25 points.
It was another character builder for Virtus, which has not won a game by fewer than 6 points. But there have been some comebacks.
In Round 4 of the Regular Season, Virtus trailed 59-63 at home after three quarters before using a 35-22 fourth quarter to beat AS Monaco 94-85. Djordjevic’s men were down 68-65 at Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Round 7 but put together a 15-24 final frame to win 83-89. And in Round 9 at Monaco, Virtus was trailing 56-47 after three quarters and then reeled off a 12-27 final 10 minutes for a 68-74 victory.
Great teams need tests along their way to a title and consider this victory at Olimpija as a major challenge passed along the way.