The difference between first and last place in Group A was clearer than ever as Tau Ceramica blasted visiting Union Olimpija 91-63 on Thursday to put one foot in the Top 16. Tau blasted off early and never looked back as it dominated despite playing four of its starters under 20 minutes each. Tau raised its record to 7-3, good for a continuing first-place tie with Zalgiris. Olimpija fell to 2-9 and is as virtually out of the Top 16 as Tau is in it. Casey Jacobsen led the winners with 18 points, while Tiago Splitter had 17, Luis Scola 12 and Roko-Leni Ukic 10. For Olimpija, Syzmon Szewczyk returned from injury with 13 points. Dragisa Drobjnak had 11, Vedran Morovic and Demarco Johnson 10 each.
Olimpija needed more than 2 minutes to collect its first point thanks to a free throw by Hazan Rizvic. As such, Tau didn't need to do much to amass a solid lead at 8-1 after 4 minutes, forcing the visitors' first timeout. After that, Yotam Halperin nailed a three-pointer to reduce the margin, but Serkan Erdogan quickly answerd with the same. Another three by Drobnjak allowed the visitors to come within 11-7 midway through the quarter, but the joy ended abruptly as Tau started to look for Splitter inside and run the court. Soon, the Tau advantage had ballooned to 23-9 after 7 minutes. Olimpija brought in Johnson to reinforce its frontcourt, but Jacobsen was just heating up his shot and carried Tau to a 26-11 advantage after 10 minutes.
Jimmy Oliver came off the bench for Olimpija to score free throws that made it 26-13 early in the second quarter. Then Scola decided to put on his own show, scoring 5 points in a row, before Ukic finished a neat turnaround move with a layup for the first 20-point margin, 33-13. Olimpija watched until Drobnjak found a free throw midway through the quarter. The 5 minutes Olimpija needed to score again allowed Tau to escape even further to 40-14 behind a couple of baskets by Kornel David on the way to a 47-20 halftime advantage.
Olimpija came out strong after the break as Szewczyk's three-pointer resumed the scoring, but Splitter took over immediately and collected 7 points, including a hook shot to make it to 54-23 after 22 minutes. Szewczyk kept pushing Olimpija to reduce the gap to 24 points at 59-35, even forcing a Tau timeout. The hosts were losing concentration and accepted a new three-pointer by Szewczyk as the difference dipped toward 20 points again. Jacobsen stopped that trend with a fastbreak dunk and a three-pointer, while Manuchar Markoishvili, Szewczyk and Halperin answered for Olimpija on the way to a 66-45 score after 30 minutes.
Morovic got the difference below 20 points with a fastbreak layup early in the final quarter, but that woul dhave to be Olimpija's highlight. Prigioni answered quickly from the arc as Tau pushed the lead bck to 72-47. A last Olimpija timeout didn't make a difference as everything was decided and both teams knew it. Tau coach Velimir Perasovic took advantage of that to allow center Oscar Garcia make his debut in the Euroleague with 2 minutes to go. The difference remained stable at 30 points, 88-58, entering in the last minute of a game that served to confirm that both teams now stood where they belonged.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Natxo Mendaza, Vitoria