In what was probably the most anti-climactic ascendance to the Top 16, Kinder Bologna officially advanced to the next round on Thursday with another solid, 85-89 Group B road, this one in Slovenia over Union Olimpija. For Kinder, the victory meant a 10-2 record and a continued hold on first place with two weeks left in the regular season. Olimpija dropped its second straight home game and endangered its own chances of making the Top 16. The decisive game for Olimpija is next week against the Opel Skyliners, where only a victory can help the Slovenians advance to the second phase.The defending champions of the Euroleague arrived in Ljubljana without Alessandro Abbio, Sani Becirovic and Rashard Griffith, but thanks to a quick zone defense and 67% two-point shooting managed to control the game. Kinder was led by David Andersen with 25 points. Emanuel Ginobili added 24 and Antoine RIgaudeau contributed 15, Marko Jaric 12. For the hosts, Jiri Welsch led the way with 22 points, followed by Jasmin Hukic with 21 and Jure Zdovc with 12 more.
The game started well for visiting Kinder, who for the first time this season, was playing before a sellout arena. The starting five began with a zone defense and after 1 minute and a half, the score was already 7-1. Kinder coach Ettore Messina called the first time out and made Alessandro Frosini go to the bench and Matjaz Smodis walked into the court. The time out had its effect as it seemed like the Italians had woken up and the results were almost immediate and from 10-1 after a three by Jiri Welsch, Kinder built a 11-2 run that tied the score at 12 in minute 7. From then on, every ball was struggled for and even though Kinder didn't show its best ball tonight, Emanuel Ginobili kept them in the game. With 13 points in the first half, Ginobili himself stopped every attempt tried by Olimpija with its best weapon tonight, which was Welsch (11 points in the first half). Ginobili neutralized 6 points from 31-25 to 31-31 with two straight threes. In the last minute of the first half, captain Jure Zdovc got injured on one finger, so the Slovenian would expect more hard work from that point. The teams hit the locker rooms tied at 42-42.
Kinder susprised the rival at the resumption with a zone defense that broke all the schemes expected by the guests. David Anderson scored for 43-46 and neither Zdovc nor Jasmin Hukic that came back to the playing floor in minute 23, were able to break the fast zone defense displayed by the Italians. For the other side, Anderson was still at work and with his eighth point in the second half which added 22 until that moment, he put the defending champions ahead 48-54. With 2 threes by Zdovcand Hukic, Olimpija remained close at 51-54 but when Brkic and Ginobili scored from the 6.25 line for 53-61 and 55-64 respectively, the game changed direction and the win was already en route to Bologna with 56-64 after 30 minutes.
In the last 10 minutes, Olimpija ran out of ideas despite having Zdovc back in the court, and the first boos came from the crowd. The 56-70 score in minute 33 gave little hope to the hosts, but everybody still had in mind the game against Ulker when Olimpija had a memorable 16-point comeback. Hukic gave the first ray of light to the drkness reigning in Ljubljana with a three for 69-77, and from here the hosts climber to a 75-78 with 1:40 to go. Then, the experience of the Italians came to surface and Rigaudeau, Ginobili and Jaric added 6 points that took the win to Bologna, 85-89.
Thursday, January 31, 2002