Union Olimpija took advantage of a visit from the Euroleague's only winless team to give itself back a piece of second place in the five-team Group B race for four chances to advance to the Top 16. Olimpija had little trouble in downing London 73-40 at home in Ljubljana on Thursday, thus lifting its record to 6-3. That piece of second place, however, is now split four ways, as Barcelona, Ulker Istanbul and Opel Skyliners also share 6-3 records. London falls to 0-8 and can only hope to take advantage of the holidays to come back for at least one win before the end of the regular season.
The two head coaches started the game with their best fives on court. For the home team, Jiri Welsch, Jurica Golemac, Vlatko Ilievski, Stipe Modric and Haris Mujezinovic, while for the guests Brett Eppehimer, John White, Terrell Myers, Phil Hickey and Jeff Kent started the game. But the difference in quality between the two teams was too large to enjoy, at least, some minutes of equality. After three minutes, the white-green team was ahead 7-3, with all the points scored by Golemac. In the fith minute the score evolved to 11-3 and the timeout called by David Lindstrom didn't have any relevance since the game didn't change at all. Olimpija was playing too tough a defense on London, whose players scored their first non-free throws points in minute 6, 15-5. The lead could have been larger if the hosts would haven't missed so many shots.
When the Slovenian strategist, Zmago Sagadin, called the first time out in minute 14, (20-11), only Ilievski was on court of the starting five. But these changes played a bigger change on Olimpija who was still playing bad in offense (46% FG in the first half) than London, who in minute 17 came back for 25-16. So, the fans were able to watch the cheerleaders dance during the second time out called by Sagadin, who did so because London at least was proving that they were no fools and they were here to struggle (29-23) for every single possession.
Union Olimpija kept on wasting easy shots from under the hoops, Welsch was presenting terrific numbers (0 of 6 and 0 of 5 threes) in minute 27, and the lead for Olimpija always was around 10 points (40-27 in minute 25). Only in minute 7 of the third, Olimpija had a decent lead on the scoreboard (49-29 in minute 28) which made the hosts relax, and Sagadin had the long desired lead to experimet a little bit on the playing floor.
Thursday, December 20, 2001
Ziga Bojc, Ljubljana