Cibona VIP needed a one-man show tonight to register its first home win of the season 85-78 against Adecco Estudiantes in the Kosarkaski Center Drazen Petrovic in Zagreb, Croatia on Thursday night. Cibona improved to 2-2 in the Group A board while Estudiantes dropped to 1-3. In fact, Marko Popovic at times reminded on the late Drazen Petrovic when he powered Cibona against Real Madrid in the eighties. Popovic led Cibona against another team from Madrid, Estudiantes, with 39 points on 4 of 5 two-pointers, 6 of 9 threes and 13 of 15 free throws, 4 steals, 4 assists and 14 fouls drawn for a total index ranking fo 54, the third-best ever in Euroleague history. Vladimir Krstic added 13 points and Branimir Longin 11 for the hosts. Ruben Garces led Estudiantes with 25 points on 8 of 9 two-pointers and 12 rebounds, Nikola Loncar added 14 points and Carlos Jimenez 11 and 9 rebounds for the guests. Popovic scored 33 points in the opening three quarters, and sealed Cibona's win with 4 points in the final minute.
Estudiantes coach Pepu Hernandez shocked everyone by placing young playmaker Sergio Rodriguez in the starting lineup, as Cibona had troubles to score in the early going. Meanwhile, Garces ignited a 0-6 run capped by Jimenez's jumper which gave Estudiantes a 3-8 lead, forcing the hosts to call timeout. A mid-range jumper by Andrija Zizic, Cibona's first basket in 7 attempts, made Cibona fire back with a 7-3 run in which Popovic scored 5 points to bring the hosts back into the game at 10-11. Garces came to the rescue for Estudiantes with a big dunk and free throws, while Rodriguez added a three-point play for a 10-18 margin. Cibona switched to a 1-2-2 zone defense, and it worked, as a three-point play by Vladimir Krstic ignited a 11-0 run in which Popovic shined with 6 points to make Cibona regain the lead, 21-18. Garces had time to add a tip-in and a put-back layup, enough for Estudiantes to get a 22-22 tie after 10 minutes.
Longin and Garces echanged layups early in the second, as even when Estudiantes dominated the offensive glass, its shooters were off-target against Cibona's zone defense. Meanwhile, Krstic and an unstoppable Popovic scored from beyond the arc, powering Cibona to its biggest lead so far, 30-24. Jimenez gave Estudiantes some fresh air with a corner three, igniting a 0-8 run in which Rodriguez added a fast break layup and Iker Iturbe a long jumper to power the guests to a 30-32 edge. Krstic tied the game again with a layup, but Estudiantes' frontcourt carried on scoring second-chance points. Meanwhile, Cibona comiited 2 quick turnovers, while Loncar fired in a big three to power Estudiantes to a 32-37 margin. Cibona called timeout, but Loncar had another hit from downtown and Garces added a put-back dunk to give Estudiantes a 37-42 lead at halftime.
Popovic was the first player to score in a defensive start in the third period, while Zizic added a layup to bring Cibona within 41-44. Both teams now had troubles to score, with missed shot and turnovers in both ends of the floor, but Estudiantes kept a slim edge due to Garces' outstanding work in the offensive glass. Popovic took over with two three-pointers and a layup in penetration to make it a one-point game, 49-50. Loncar fired back from downtown and Patterson added a three-point play, but no-one seemed to stop Popovic tonight. He followed a hit from downtown with 2 free throws, while Vrankovic made a spectacular coast-to-coast layup to put Cibona back in front, 58-56. Estudiantes called timeout, but Popovic carried on with his offensive exhibition with 2 free throws, while Krstic added a basket to power Cibona to a 62-59 lead after 30 minutes. Popovic had 33 points entering the fourth.
Estudiantes improved its defense early in the final period, while a big three by Hernan Jasen and a free throw by Garces made the guests regain the lead at 62-63. Popovic - who else? - and Longin fired back from the free throw line. Estudiantes carried on following its game plan, no other than looking for Garces and Patterson near the basket for easy layups, and that allowed the guests to stay into the game. Longin followed Josko Poljak's put-back with a four-meter jumper, but Jimenez stepped up with 6 quick points to make Estudiantes keep a 69-72 edge midway through the fourth. Estudiantes had managed to finally slow Popovic, but Vrankovic and Andrej Stimac helped the hosts to get a 76-75 lead. Loncar fired in another three, but Zizic answered near the basket to tie the game, 78-78, with a minute to go. Longin stepped up with a big three from the left corner for a 81-78 Cibona lead with 30 seconds remaining. Jimenez missed a tough shot in the paint, while Popovic sealed the win with 2 free throws and a final basket to close an outstanding individual perfomance.
Thursday, November 25, 2004