Barcelona proved Wendesday that it is growing into the threat that had everyone calling it a preseason favorite in Group B and beyond. Playing its best home game of the season, Barcelona brushed aside Union Olimpija of Slovenia by the unexpectedly big margin of 81-61. A blowout third quarter was decisive, but the home team controlled the scoreboard throughout. Barcelona lifted its record to 5-2, which could be good for sole possession of second place by the end of group play on Thursday. Olimpija, now 4-3, loses its third game of the last four and could be watching its back in fourth place by Friday. Juan Carlos Navarro hit 4 of 5 three-pointers to lead Barcelona with 17 points while Sarunas Jasikevicius added 15 for the winners. Tunji Awojobi had 18 points and Haris Mujezinovic had 15 for the
Zmago Sagadin brought out a surprising starting five, without leading scorers Jiri Welsh and Beno Udrih, and Tunji Awojobi was the only star of the game at the beginning, scoring all of the first seven points for Olimpija as the Olimpija burst ahead 2-7. The visitors should have looked backwards to see the train coming behind them. Barcelona took the lead for the first team at 10-7 through a three-point play by Alfonso Alzamora and extended pushed it to 25-14 at the end of the first quarter. That 23-7 run included nine points without a miss from Sarunas Jasikevicius and a three-pointer scored by Alain Digbeu when the last possesion expired.
In the second quarter Barcelona didn't score a basket in the first 3 minutes 43 seconds, but it's defense was still solid and it needed only a three-pointer from Juan Carlos Navarro to regain its biggest lead at 29-18. The Spanish team got always the best in the battle for the rebounds, but had many problems in this period to adjust to the man-to-man defense of Olimpija. Holding Barcelona to only two baskets in 7 minutes allowed Olimpija to trim the lead down to six points, 31-25, as center Haris Mujezinovic had his best moments. However, a second three-pointer from Navarro capped a 7-0 run and gave Barcelona back its big lead at 38-25. Olimpija had to hustle to score the last eight points of the quarter and stay in the game 38-33 at the half.
For the first time in the game Barcelona showed how to take a real advantage from the dominance of Dueñas inside game. The 2.19-meter center responded with very good numbers and the Slovenians seemed to tire under in trying to battle him. The Barcelona defense kept getting better and better, and eight points from Navarro, including his third and fourth three-pointers, started and capped an 18-2 run that closed this period and in fact the game, 64-41.
Rodrigo De la Fuente extended that run to a 20-2 with thr first basket of the last period (66-41) and Barcelona was an unstoppable machine even when Navarro lef the court with seven minutes to go receiving a standing ovation. The maximum lead was of as many as 28 points, 79-51, before it ended.
Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Juan Antonio Casanova, Barcelona