Zeleznik of Yugoslavia became the first home winner in the ULEB Cup when it walloped visiting Opel Skyliners of Germany 82-60 in a Group B game at Belgrade on Tuesday. Zeleznik held comfortable leads through much of the game thanks to big man Ognjen Askrabic, who had most of his game-high 22 points early. Askrabic was quite efficient, making 6 of 8 two-pointers and 3 threes in as many tries. He also pulled a team-high 7 rebounds and dished off three assists. Shooting guard Ivan Zoroski added 19 points for the winners, including 9 of 11 free throws, while big man Goran Nikolic contributed 10 points. For Skyliners, only Stipo Papic was on his game, scoring 17 points to go with 7 rebounds, both highs for the team from Frankfurt.
The first period ended almost equal, 17-16 for Zeleznik, with lot of misses on both sides of the court. The teams were nervous, especially Zeleznik, who had the preasure to show the home fans its strength in the ULEB Cup opener. Well, those fans got everything they could ask for after those first 10 minutes. The hosts showed real fireworks in the second period, drilling shot after shot until they had won the quarter 30-9 and put the game virtually out of reach for Skyliners. Askrabic and Zoroski were at their best supported by Nikolic and Veselin Petrovic. Papic tried to keep Skyliners alive but none of his teammtes could break free and the halftime margin stood at 47-25 even after Zeleznik missed a trio of three-pointers in the final 2 minutes.
After the half, Skyliners could get little going to make up ground and thus arrived to minute 27 down 57-37. Soon Zoroski added a three-pointer for a 62-40 lead, though the guests were able to cut that to 62-44 at the end of 30 minutes. There was no drama in the final quarter. Askrabic continued dunking and making seven-meter bombs. Zoroski, Nikolic and Reggie Freeman assisted him. Pascal Roller and Alex King were under wraps and Skyliners knew they would have to wait for another night to take their first ULEB Cup win. A total of 60 points will not accomplish that, as Zeleznik's defense turned out to be as good as its long shooting.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002