Union Olimpija kept a slim chance to make it to the Top 16 in Group A by thrashing visiting Strasbourg 82-68 in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Thursday. Both teams are now tied for the sixth place along with AEK, all with a 3-8 record. Most likely only three more victories would give any a chance to reach the next round. Teemu Rannikko led the winners with 16 points while Dragisa Drobnjak added 15 on 5-for-7 shooting. Jimmy Oliver had 11 points and Manuchar Markoishvili 10 for Olimpija. Ricardo Greer led all scorers with 18 points, but he had 13 in the final 7 minutes when the outcome was sealed. Zelly Wesson added 11 points for Strasbourg. Olimpija used a mamooth 30-8 run which bridged through the opening two quarters to get a 51-27 halftime lead, then extended it to 70-47 to seal the win at the end of the third quarter.
Olimpija started the game with a small lineup featuring Dragisa Drobnjak at the center spot. Manu Markoishvili got the hosts going with a corner three and DeMarco Johnson added a short jumper for a 5-0 Olimpija lead. Strasbourg went scoreless for 2 minutes until Ondrej Starosta canned a six-meter jumper to which Rannikko answered from downtown for a 8-2 score. Drobnjak followed a layup with free throws to boost the hosts' margin to 12-4. It didn't last long, as the Greer brothers fueled a 0-6 run which forced Olimpija to call timeout at 12-10. Halperin stepped up with a driving layup and Rannikko followed it with his second triple, good for a 17-10 Olimpija margin. Johnson swished a four-meter jumper and Drobnjak made free throws before Stanley Jackson made a short shot to bring Strasbourg within 21-12 after 10 minutes.
Oliver came off the bench in the second quarter and immediately hit a long jumper, igniting a quick 9-0 run in which him and Morovic combined for all points, forcing Strasbourg to call timeout at 30-12. The guests had been limited to just 2 points in almost 7 minutes until Starosta made free throws. Remon Van de Hare took over with a basket-plus-foul and Szewczyk hit a corner three which made it a 20-point game, 36-16. Olimpija kept rolling in both ends, diving for loose balls and finding the open man in offense. Morovic and Oliver combined for 6 quick points for another game-high margin, 42-18. Ricardo Greer tried to change things with a three-point play, but Halperin fed Drobnjak for a layup and added a coast-to-coast layup. Sacha Giffa buried a three which Oliver matched in the other end for a 51-27 Olimpija margin at halftime.
Drobnjak stayed on fire after the break with a close basket, a steal and a big rebound. Strasbourg went scoreless in the opening 2 minutes of the third until Wesson stepped up with an easy layup. Even with that, the guests kept struggling in offense, while Markoishvili followed Rannikko's driving layup with a big three to keep Olimpija in charge. Giffa tried to get Strasbourg back in track with consecutive triples while Wesson followed a basket-plus-foul with a power layup to bring the guests within 59-40 after 26 minutes. The guests had entered the foul bonus, while Rannikko and Johnson combined for 5 free throws. Drobnjak - who else? - took over with a three-point play and Rannikko buried one from downtown, enough for Olimpija to seal the outcome, 70-47, at the end of the third quarter.
Olimpija kept its excellent team attitude in the opening minutes of the final period. Oliver canned another jumper and Halperin added a fast break dunk which made it a 27-point game, 74-47. Strasbourg only rallied once Olimpija had sealed the win, as Starosta and Ricardo Greer scored inside, while Jackson hit a short jumper which made the hosts call timeout. Ricardo Greer added 7 unanswered points in a 0-13 run which happened to be too little, too late for Strasbourg. A big three by Markoishvili and a basket-plus-foul by Rannikko allowed all Olimpija fans to go back home with a smile, as their teams pleased them with an uncontested home win.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Ziga Bojc, Ljubljana