Proving that it had never given up hope, last-place Union Olimpija of Group B gave its fans an unforgettable show when it blew out visiting Unicaja 87-59 on Wednesday. Olimpija started with a 12-0 run and never looked back as Marko Milic first and Teemu Rannikko later boosted the hosts to the win. Olimpija is now 3-8 in the standings in last place, but is suddenly only a victory away from sixth place. Unicaja dropped to 4-7, and either Partizan or Cibona will have the same record after they play on Thursday. Milic led the winners with 19 points, Rannikko and Ender Arslan posted 16 apiece and Ivica Jurkovic nailed 11 for the winners. For Unicaja, only Pepe Sanchez and Kostas Vasiliadis reached double figures with 13 points each. Union Olimpija dominated in rebounding by a 37-24 total and in assists by 15-2, while Unicaja made only 2 of 18 three-point tries.
The scoring started with a free throw by Manuchar Markoishvili, as Olimpija's defense was really aggressive from the tipoff. Unicaja struggled for decent shots as Milic finished off a fastbreak and hit more free throws to make it 5-0. As they couldn't pass into the paint, the guests had to shoot from outside and missed, while Milic hit another basket to boost the lead to 9-0. Between Markoishvili and Milic alone the score escalated to 12-0. Daniel Santiago finally scored for Unicaja with a nice move inside, which would turn out to be his sole basket of the game. Sanchez's offensive rebound allowed the guests to make it 14-4, but Milic was still on fire and soon had 9 points himself. Unicaja's defense got tighter now and Olimpija found it harder and harder to score as 2 free throws by Vasiliadis made it 18-11 after 10 minutes.
After 2 scoreless minutes into the second quarter, Domen Lorbek finally made it 20-11 for Olimpija, which already enjoyed an 18-7 rebounding advantage. Unicaja was having little options to fight back. With Milic back on court now, Olimpija ran ahead 24-11 before Sanchez again broke the spell for his team. Carlos Cabezas joined in and when Unicaja started to defend better, those two managed to trim the deficit to 24-17. Lorbek reacted for the hosts, blasting a three-pointer, but Sanchez replied in the same way for a 27-22 scoreboard. The half was over, however, for Unicaja, while Olimpija kept playing witha 10-0 run in which Jurkovic scored the last 8 points on a triple, a three-point basket-plus-free throw and a buzzer-beating dunk that put the hosts in charge for good at 37-22.
Free throws by Berni Rodriguez opened the scoring in the second half for Unicaja and Sanchez joined him with a layup that forced an Olimpija timeout at 37-26. Again, the hosts had a rescuer, this time Rannikko, who connected for 8 straight points, including two triples, to recover a 45-27 lead. It was now Milic's turn for 4 straight points highlighted by a spactacular alley-oop from Rannikko that brought the house down at 49-28. Free throws by Santiago were overshadowed by Rannikko's newest triple, and he soon added 3 free throws after Sanchez's technical foul to make it 55-30. Unicaja's 1-for-12 three-point shooting until then said a lot as Olimpija cruised to a 66-38 advantage after three quarters.
The last quarter started with Unicaja trying to fix some problems, but Olimpija replied with aggressiveness as Hazan Rizvic slammed in traffic for a 71-45 scoreboard. The fouls of Unicaja allowed the hosts easy points from the line and let the guests try newly-signed forward Marko Tusek. However, Olimpija's Dejan Hohler welcomed him with a new triple as the difference went over the 30 points, 77-45. It was party time in Ljubljana after that as young Kamil Pietras scored several points to the delight of Olimpija fans who had needed a win.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007