Pau-Orthez clinched its first Top 16 road win this season in Group E by beating Union Olimpija 86-90 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Wednesday night. Pau improved to 2-3 and will be third in this group after beating Olimpija twice and losing twice against Efes, second at 3-2. Meanwhile, Olimpija dropped to 1-4 and will be the last-ranked team in Group E. Mate Skelin led the winners with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Dragan Lukovski added 16 on 9 of 10 free throws, including 8 of 8 in the final 40 seconds to seal the game, while Florent Pietrus had 14 and 9 rebounds, Laurent Foirest 11 and Cyril Julian 10 for Pau. Saso Ozbolt led Olimpija with 18 points, Marino Bazdaric added 15, Simon Petrov 14 and Dzenan Rahimic 13 for the hosts.
To start the game, both teams exchanged baskets at full speed, shooting early in every possession. A put-back by Julian and an easy layup by Foirest gave Pau an early lead at 4-8. Rahimic was the go-to guy for Olimpija, but the guests were unstoppable, and a behind-the-back pass by Artur Drozdov for a reverse slam by Pietrus gave Pau a 6-12 lead. Olimpija fired back, however, as a three-point play by Petrov and a big three by Bazdaric tied the game at 16-16 after 7 minutes. The hosts regained the lead at 22-18 with Badzaric's back-to-back baskets, and even when Koko Archibong scored for Pau, but a layup in penetration by Petrov gave the hosts a 24-20 lead after 10 minutes.
Pau used a 0-10 run early in the second period, in which Skelin had 4 points while Pietrus and Frederic Fauthoux drilled one apiece from downtown, to regain the lead at 27-32. Olimpija called timeout, but it didn't work, as two three-pointers by youngster Gauthier Darrigand extended Pau's lead to double digits at 31-41 midway through the second. The hosts' offense collapsed against Pau's organized man-to-man defense, with many switchs, as Olimpija only managed to add 3 points from the free throw line in more than 3 minutes. A put-back by Julian helped Pau to keep a safe margin at 34-43, but the hosts used a 6-0 final run in which Aloysius Anagonye had 4 points to cut the guests' lead to 40-43 at halftime.
The game turned into a defensive battle early in the third, and Olimpija got the best out of it, as the guests scored 2 points in the opening 4 minutes. Meanwhile, Ozbolt singlehandedly helped Olimpija to regain the lead, scoring 8 points in a 9-0 run which gave the hosts a 51-45 lead. Pau fired back soon after that with a 3-9 run in which 4 different players scored, as a basket by Archibong made Pau tie the game at 54-54. Several lead changes followed until Skelin, with a free throw, tied the game again at 58-58, and even when Bazdaric drilled 1 of 2 free throws in the other end, a jumper by Pietrus from the left wing gave Pau a 59-60 lead entering the fourth.
Rahimic, with 5 points, and Badzaric, with a fast break layup, helped Olimpija to get a 71-66 lead with 5 minutes to go, after a turnaround jumper by Vladimer Boisa. Pau called timeout and returned to the game with a three-pointer by Lukovski and a free throw by Skelin with brought the guests within 73-70. Olimpija needed a go-to guy and Boisa stepped up with 4 consecutive points for a 77-70 local lead. It was do-or-die time for Pau, and Pietrus stepped up with 6 points in a 4-10 run which made it a one-point game at 81-80 with under 2 minutes to go. The hosts carried on struggling and 2 foul shots by Skelin gave Pau a 81-82 lead with 58 seconds to go. A carousel of free throws followed, in which Lukovski drilled 8 of 8 in the final minute to seal the win for Pau, as Olimpija committed too many mistakes in crunch time.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004