Olympiacos virtually punched its ticket to the Top 16 in Group B by thrashing Cibona 99-70 at home in Athens on Wednesday. Olympiacos improved to 6-7 and could advance before Week 13 is over, depending on other Group B results. Regarless, it would take a mathematical miracle to keep the Reds out now. Meanwhile, Cibona dropped to 5-8 and must watch other teams now to know where it stands going into the final week. Tyus Edney stepped up when his team needed him, leading the Reds with a double-double of 24 points and 11 assists. He made 12 of 12 free throws. Reinaldas Seibutis added 16 points, Sofoklis Schortsianitis 14 points and 8 rebounds, Nikos Hatzis 12 points, Quincy Lewis 11 and Nikos Barlos 10 for Olympiacos. Damir Markota had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Cibona. Scoonie Penn had 14 points, Marin Rozic 10 while Mate Skelin grabbed 10 rebounds for the guests, who were tied 42-42 before Edney ended the first half with a triple and then continued care of business after the break.
A Croat opened the scoring, but he was wearing an Olympiacos uniform. Zizic gave the Reds a quick lead that rose to 7-4 after Quincy Lewis nailed a jumper and Edney the game's first three-point shot. When Damir Rancic brought Cibona within 7-6 on his own jump shot, Olympiacos sprung a surprise, pressing on the perimeter. The result was better than the Reds could have guessed, an 10-0 blast in which the same three host players scored before Nikos Barlos hit a triple and free throws to end it with the scoreboard showing 17-6 and the home crowd going crazy. And the Reds were not done yet. Markota and Mate Skelin interrupted the Olympiacos run, but only until Reinaldas Seibutis fired from the corner and Edney hit free throws to boost the margin to 25-11. Edney kept pushing and Zizic added another pair of baskets against his old team for a big 29-11 advantage before Markota and Penn started Cibona's comeback by trimming the difference to 31-18 after 10 minutes.
Markota connected from downtown to keep Cibona going at the start of the second quarter. Penn followed him with another basket, and it was obvious that the momentum was shifting in Cibona's favor despite the double-digit Olympiacos lead. After red-hot Markota popped in a jumper to make it 33-25, Christos Harissis and Sofoklis Schortsianitis jumped off the Olympiacos bench to help, but Cibona got help, too. Damir Rancic buried a great triple off the dribble before Marin Rozic exploded for 6 consecutive points on a free throw, triple and layup. When Davor Kus added a jumper, Cibona was within 38-36, forcing an Olympiacos timeout. Rozic remained hot, however, extended Cibona’s run to 0-10 with game-tying free throws. Skelin tied again at 40-40 and Rancic at 42-42, but Edney got the last word of the half, beating the buzzer from mid-court to reestablish an Olympiacos lead of 45-42 after 20 minutes.
Seibutis and Markota finished off good plays for their teams to start the second half. Olympiacos tried to speed up the tempo and indeed Seibutis found a triple and fastbreak layup to push Olympiacos up 52-44. Lewis added another triple at 55-44 as Cibona was having a bad time creating opportunities. Edney reached 18 points in as many minutes of play and completed Olympiacos 10-0 run at 57-44. Skelin broke that streak with a nice post move, but more than that was needed to slow down Olympiacos. Jurica Zuza and Penn tried with baskets that made it 59-49. However, Edney from the free throw line and Nikos Hatzis from the arc punished Cibona's loose defense to increase the lead again to 64-49. Olympiacos kept finding points - inside, outside and on fastsbreaks. A Seibutis layup and Barlos free throw supplied the highest difference yet, 69-50, before Kus beat the shot-clock buzzer to trim the difference to 71-53 after three periods.
Hatzis nailed an off-balance jumper to begin the final quarter. Olympiacos was not ready to slow down, either. Barlos and Edney added some more points as Cibona struggled to react. Kus and Markota tried to cut the margin a bit, but the Reds oozed self confidence as the score climbed to 81-57. Penn and Markota combined on 5 oints to make it 81-62, but Edney and Schortsianitis erased those quickly. With under 5 minutes left, the only question left was whether Edney might get a triple-double. He was missing just three rebounds, but when he left to warm applause with Olympiacos way up, the opportunity passed. Olympiacos was now running for 100 points, but when Schortsianitis dunked the final score stood at 99-70. Only illogical math was keeping Olympiacos from getting its asterisk as a Top 16 qualifier as its fans sang in the stands about making a run at the Final Four, too.
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Stelios Kyriakoglou, Athens