Cibona saved its best for the best. The last undefeated team in the Euroleague fell and fell hard on Tuesday in Group A, as Cibona VIP blasted FC Barcelona out of Drazen Petrovic Arena in Zagreb by a score of 94-77 that was never that close during the previous 40 minutes. The unexpectadly dominant victory boosts Cibona to 3-3 before the break for national play while drawing Barcelona back toward its pursuers at 5-1. A 13-0 run to start the game set the tone for Cibona, which used exceptional shooting to keep Barcelona way behind throughout. The home team, undefeated now on its own floor, made 12 of 22 three-pointers on the night (55%) and 22 of 34 twos (64%) while building leads of up to 28 points. Niksa Prkacin led the winners with 21 points, mostly inside, while Slaven Rimac paced the outside shooters with 4 threes and 20 points total. Zoran Planinic scored his 13 points all in the first half and Davor Kus hit for 10, all on three-pointers as one came with a foul shot added. Juan Carlos Navarro was the only Barcelona player on form, finishing with 25 points. Anderson Varejao and Roberto Dueñas added 12 each, but Sarunas Jasikevicius and Dejan Bodiroga were held to 9 and 8, respectively. In the arena, exuberant fans found it difficult to remember when was the last time Cibona played such a great game. For three quarters Barcelona was almost non-existent.
Barcelona's league-leading record came under assault immediately by Cibona in the form of an 13-0 run to start the game. Two well-run backdoor plays, a post-up and an offensive rebound by four different Cibona starters got the first 8 points, then Matej Mamic stepped behind the three-point line and let fly. It was good and Cibona was on its way. For 5 whole minutes, Barcelona could not score. When Barca finally lifted its head for a couple baskets to get within 13-4, Mamic and Dzevad Alihodzic came up with back-to-back threes that fairly shouted down the visitors an put an amazing 19-4 on the scorebaord. Half the story was being written on the defensive end, where Cibona was pressuring the ball, the passing lanes and Barca's big men in the post. Bodiroga took matters into his own hands for 6 consecutive points, but Slaven Rimac responded with Cibona's fourth three-pointer and a 23-10 lead. He would get another basket posting up Navarro before 10 minutes ended with the hosts in control at 26-12.
Barcelona needed to react in the second quarter, but again it was all Cibona for a few minutes. The home team seemed to score at will in 13-7 run that spiked the lead to 20 points, 39-19. Niksa Prkacin was working the post for a couple of those baskets, while Planinic seemed to be running everything else. He hit a three-pointer one trip down the court, fed Prkacin for a backdoor on another and finally broke down Bodiroga with a jumper in the lane. In between, however, Navarro got going with a three-pointer, Barcelona's first after 8 misses, and 4 free throws, pulling the guests within 41-24. But Planinic and Prkacin could not be deterred, as they split the next 8 points for Cibona and the lead soared to 49-27. It was all Barcelona could do, with a Dueñas dunk, Fucka's first basket and the first three-pointer in five tries by Jasikevicius, to close out the quarter with an 0-7 run that left Cibona ahead 48-34 at the half. Planinic had 13 points and 4 assists by then, while Rimac was up to 9 for Cibona. Bodiroga and Navarro had 7 each for Barca.
A layup by Navarro to start the second half draw Barca within 48-36, but a dozen points turned out to be as close as the visitors would get. Prkacin ruled inside and then Kus came up with his four-point play as the lead started back up at 55-41. Within a couple minutes, Rimac was found open on the perimeter after good ball movement not once, but twice, and the veteran sharpshooter did not disappoint the fans. He put down both threes from downtown and then added an extra bucket for good measure. Cibona was leading 70-45 and the fans in Zagreb didn't just believe anymore. They knew. The tough, talented young team they had been watching win at home but lose on the road thusfar was capable of big things. Kus put something of a signature on the proceedings with a three-pointer at the buzzer that made it 78-50. The surprise was that only three quarters had passed, but the outcome was clear even to Barcelona. Barcelona made the score more respecatble in the last 10 minutes, after coach Svetislav Pesic cleared the bench and took Bodiroga, Jasikevicius, Duenas and Fucka out of the game.
For Cibona it was a game of many heroes. Head coach Jasmin Repesa suprised some by starting Dzevad Alihodzic but the veteran center held his own for 8 minutes, even hitting one of the few three-pointers of his whole career. His presence allowed Prkacin to avoid early fouls and come off the bench to be his team's leading scorer What impressed the most, however, was the defense on Bodiroga and Fucka, two superstars who combined for only 12 points. They were never in the game, as Mamic was all over Bodiroga. Finally, Repesa's long wait for Planinic and Rimac to fully recover from their knee injuries finaly paid off. Planinic was brilliant in the first half, with 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting, plus 3 rebounds and 4 asissts. Rimac scored 11 of his 20 in the third-quarter run that took away all of Barcelona's motivation to attempt a comeback. This was the night that Cibona's young talents got it right on both ends of the floor, and that was plenty good enough to make the Euroleague's best team until now tumble completely.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002