Union Olimpija pleased its crowd with its first home win of the season, but it was a well-deserved one against one of the superpowers of the competition by beating Montepaschi Siena 79-74 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Thursday night. Both teams now share a 2-2 record in the standings, good for the third spot in this group. Andres Rodriguez led the winners with 21 points on 5 of 6 two-pointers, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. He scored 11 points in the crucial final period, leading Olimpija in crunch time. Marino Bazdaric added 18 points on 8 of 9 free throws, Dusan Bocevski added 17 and Vladimer Boisa 16 and 7 rebounds for the hosts. Bootsy Thornton had 20 points on 6 of 9 two-pointers and 8 of 8 free throws to lead Montepaschi. Carlton Myers added 11 and Roberto Chiacig 10 for the guests. Olimpija kept a slim lead throughout the final period, in which Bazdaric and an outstanding Rodriguez led the hosts to a valuable home win.
Stefanov made a free throw and a floating layup to give Montepaschi a 0-3 lead. Meanwhile, Olimpija looked for its big men near the basket, as Boisa and Bocevski scored for a 4-3 Olimpija lead. Giacomo Galanda fired in one from downtown and made a tough shot in the paint to put the guests back in front, 4-8. Both teams played man-to-man defense, but Olimpija had troubles against Montepaschi's run-and-gun offense, with short possessions and good ball circulation. Boisa stepped up with a turnaround jumper, but Thornton quickly answered with a layup for a 8-13 Montepaschi margin. Saso Filipovski called timeout, but Rentzias scored near the basket and Thornton added a mid-range jumper to power the guests to a 8-17 margin. Olimpija improved its defense in the final minutes of this period, while Bocevski scored twice to bring the guests within 12-17. David Vanterpool fed Rentzias for a powerful dunk, but Rodriguez drilled a three for a 15-19 Olimpija deficit after 10 minutes. Montepaschi made 7 of 8 two-pointers in the opening period.
Boisa and Bocevski carried on dominating near the basket early in the second, as both players combined 5 quick points to make a one-point game, 20-21. It didn't last long, however, as Thornton came to the rescue with 2 free throws and Myers added a big three off a screen to extend Siena's lead to 20-26. Rodriguez fired back from downtown, but Montepaschi kept full control with baskets by Thornton and Vanterpool. Both teams had troubles to score, as Myers' free throws gave the guests a 26-33 margin. Boisa and a fast break dunk by Bazdaric brought the hosts within 30-33. Montepaschi called timeout, as Stefanov and Chiacig scored back-to-back baskets to give the guests some fresh air. That didn't slow Olimpija, however, as a big three by Badzaric ignited a 9-2 run in which Bocevski and once again Badzaric fired in one from downtown to tie the game, 41-41, late in this period. Chiacig and Boisa exchanged put-back layups for a 43-43 tie at halftime.
Bocevski opened the second half with a three-point play and Bazdaric added a floating layup to give Olimpija its first lead since the early going at 48-43. Meanwhile, Montepaschi had troubles against the hosts' aggressive man-to-man defense, while Manuchar Markoishvili scored 4 quick points to boost Olimpija to a 52-43 margin. The guests went scoreless for the opening 3 minutes of the third, but Recalcati called timeout and Montepaschi got back in track with better defense and looking for better options near the basket. Chiacig and Myers combined 4 quick points to make it a five-point game at 52-47, and even when Boisa stepped up with a three from the top of the key for Olimpija, Montepaschi was in the right direction. Mindaugas Zukauskas followed Chiacig's dunk with a layup for a 55-51 deficit. Vanterpool drilled 2 free throws and added a behind-the-back pass to Thornton for an easy basket to bring Montepaschi even closer, 59-57, entering the fourth.
Both teams struggled to score early in the final period, as the game had already turned into an thriller. Rodriguez was the only player to score in more than 3 minutes, but his layup and his long two-pointer were followed by Saso Ozbolt's three which boosted Olimpija to a 66-57 lead with 6 minutes to go. Montepaschi called a much-needed timeout, as the guests switch to zone defense while Thornton made a fallaway jumper which Kakiouzis followed with a fast break layup and Vanterpool with a mid-range jumper for a 66-63 Montepaschi deficit. Olimpija now could not beat the guests' superb defense, until Rodriguez once again stepped up with a big three and Bazdaric added 2 free throws for a 71-63 Olimpija lead with under 3 minutes to go. Stefanov made a big three in crunch time, and Thornton followed it with free throws to make Montepaschi keep some options at 71-68. Rodriguez became the man of the game with 2 free throws and a big basket already in the final minute. Thornton drilled 4 free throws for a 75-72 with 39 seconds to go. Vanterpool committed a key turnover, while Bazdaric made 4 of 4 free throws in the final seconds to seal the outcome.
Thursday, November 25, 2004