Skipper Bologna won its fifth straight game, clinched its spot in the Top 16 and moved into the third place in Group A on Thursday when it defeated visiting Pau-Orthez 85-75 in a game that probably spelled elimination for the French team. A balance of outside and inside scoring, some high shooting percentages and rebounding dominance added up to a 7-4 record and Skipper's best standing of the regular season so far. Pau, meanwhile, lost its sixth straight game and fell to 3-8, alone in seventh place. Gianluca Basile led the winners with 19 points, hitting 4 of his team's 10 three-pointers. Emilio Kovacic added 18 points, Gianmarco Pozzecco 11 and Lubos Barton 10 for Skipper. Rod Sellers led Pau with 17 points. Boris Diaw Riffiod had 13, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Cyril Julian added 13 points and Mickael Pietrus 12.
Skipper took an early 12-7 lead, by taking advantage of double pivots Emilijo Kovacic and Mate Skelin, but Pau stayed into the game despite thanks to Kyle Hill's triples and good intensity despite its size disadvantage. Skipper was leading 15-9 when Hill and Rod Sellers combined for all the points of a 0-8 run that gave Pau its first lead of the game, 15-17, after 8 minutes. Lubos Barton sank a three to negate the visitors advantage at 18-17, and then both coaches started rotating in bench players, Gianluca Basile and Vlado Scepanovic for Skipper, Dragan Lukovski and Cyril Julian for Pau. The quarter ended with balanced score, Skipper ahead for one small point, 22-21.
Skipper suffered a little bit with the work of Sellers in the post, so started double-teaming the Pau center. On offense, the hosts found good open shots with Barton, Scepanovic and Basile, and used those to push out to a six-point lead. Pau had trouble stopping Kovacic's versatile inside and outside play. The Skipper center sank a triple as Skipper ran away to a double-digit lead at 47-35. For Pau, only Julian stopped the slide. Skipper closed the quarter with 10 points to defend, 49-39, after having hit an excellent 11 for 13 on two-pointers in the second quarter.
Skipper came back in the second half with same attitude and intensity, while Pau tried to close the doors on defense. A couple of three-pointers by Mickael Pietrus gave hope to the French team, but Skipper found equally good baskets with Basile coming off the picks. Pau tried to come back behind Boris Diaw Riffiod, and closed to within 6 points, at 60-54, with 2 minutes left in the quarter. Thanks to Basile's triple-plus-free throw, however, Skipper was off on a 9-0 run that was only stopped at the buzzer by a Sellers jumper, which fixed the score at 69-58 after 30 minutes.
Skipper controlled the tempo of the game also in the fourth quarter, and ran away with big leads, sealing the outcome well in advance. With triples from Basile, Kovacic and Scepanovic, the Skipper lead rose to 17 points, 80-63, which was just too deep a hole for Pau to climb out of. Pau tried to limit the damages, to perhaps save its advantage from a five-point win in the first-leg game between the two teams. But in the end, not even that was possible. Pau's hopes looked all but done and Skipper, after a 2-4 start to the season, was going to the Top 16.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Daniele Baiesi, Bologna