Sani Becirovic turned in a masterful performance against his former team to lead Lottomatica Roma to a 67-78 road win at Union Olimpija in Ljubljana on Thursday night. Becirovic recorded 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in just 25 minutes to help Roma to its second win this season – and first on the road. Head coach Jasmin Repesa’s side now boasts a 2-1 record and trails Group C leader Tau Ceramica by one win before heading to Spain for a duel next week. Meanwhile Olimpija dropped to 0-3 and will hunt for its first win in Istanbul next week against Fenerbahce Ulker. The game was close for most of the opening period, but Roma began to pull away shortly after that. The visitors scored the first 7 points of the second period to take a double-digit lead and strong minutes by Brandon Jennings and Rodrigo de la Fuente stretched the lead to 18 before settling at 28-44 by halftime. Olimpija did make a number of second-half runs, with Mirza Begic, Marko Milic and Jonathan Wallace all trying to spark the hosts, but they never got closer than 8. Jennings added 14 in his best showing of the season, while de la Fuente recorded 10 points and 9 rebounds and Primoz Brezec, also a former Olimpija star, scored 10. Begic led the hosts with 16 points and 8 rebounds, Milic had 14 points and 7 boards and Vlado Ilievski scored 13 in defeat.
Damjan Rudez fired in a three to start the scoring before Brezec answered with Roma’s first points. Olimpija’s big men Begic and Miha Zupan were quite active on the glass, but Brezec’s second score kept the game tied. Becirovic gave Roma its first lead from the line, but that would change on nearly every possession as Ilievski and Ibby Jaaber traded baskets. The visitors looked to make their move on a Becirovic triple that put Roma up 4. A pair of de la Fuente free throws made it 12-18 before Frank Robinson’s first Euroleague points and a Vladimir Golubovic basket drew Olimpija closer. Becirovic added a free throw to make it 16-19 after 10 minutes.
Roma continued its momentum as the second quarter began, reeling off the next 7 points on Angelo Gigli free throws, an Andre Hutson three-point play and a coast-to-coast layup by Jennings for a 10-point lead. Milic interrupted the run, but Jennings scored again and de la Fuente added a triple to make it 18-31. Baskets by Robinson and Milic were matched by de la Fuente and Becirovic as the visitors took charge. Jennings was then fouled shooting a three and made the 3 resulting free throws. Allan Ray followed with a triple to make it 24-42. Begic and Becirovic both hit from the line before Ilievski ended the half with his team down 28-44.
A pair of Begic slam dunks in the opening minutes of the second half showed that Olimpija still had spirit, but the hosts were unable to slow down the Roma attack. But as soon as the visitors stuttered, Olimpija made its charge as Milic and Ilievski inspired an 8-0 run that made it 40-48. But the Roman backcourt wouldn’t let Olimpija any closer. Becirovic and Jennings combined for 12 points in the next four minutes to hold of Olimpija, which was generating plenty of offense of its own thanks to Milic and Ilievski. But after an Ilievski triple made it 51-60, Jennings converted a layup-plus-foul and Ray added a layup to make it 51-65 with one period remaining.
Ray opened the fourth quarter with a three that put Roma up by 17. That didn’t deter Wallace who answered with a triple and a jumper to bring the gap down to 11. De la Fuente and Hutson scored to keep Roma up by double figures and time was running out for the hosts. Wallace persisted, but Becirovic’s layup made it 61-75 and just about sealed the win with less than three minutes to play. Baskets by Begic and Saso Ozbolt only helped to trim the deficit before Becirovic capped a strong showing with 2 more free throws for a well-deserved win.
Thursday, November 6, 2008