Union Olimpija will look to bounce back from a rough Euroleague opener when it hosts red-hot Olympiacos Piraeus on Thursday night in a Group A contest in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Olimpija scored its fewest points in a Euroleague game this decade while getting rocked by Montepaschi Siena 80-52 in last week's opener. Veteran forwards Jasmin Hukic and Marko Milic were two of the only bright spots for the team in that loss, combining for 30 points, 12 rebounds and 6 steals. Olympiacos overcame Tau Ceramica 95-90 as all five starters scored in double figures. The game marks the first meeting between the clubs since March 2003, when Olympiacos won a Top 16 matchup in Greece, 73-61. The only holdover from that game is Hukic, although he since left and returned to Ljubljana. Olimpija will be out to prove that its Week 1 performance was an aberration. The first symptom it must cure turnovers, of which it committed 22 last week. Young point guard Goran Dragic, who struggled against Montepaschi, will get that responsibility again, with even less help than usual from Ronell Taylor, who is doubtful due to injur, and none at all from Maurice Bailey, who is out. That will make it harder to match up against Olympiacos's Lynn Greer, Arvydas Macijauskas and Milos Teodosic. Dragic and teammates will have to keep an eye on Macijauskas, better known as a scorer, who had 7 steals last week. The experience of Hukic vs. the talent of Qyntel Woods will be the theme at small forward, In the paint, the Reds look to take advantage of a tough and talented lineup featuring Marc Jackson, Ioannis Bourousis and Jake Tsakalidis, while Olimpija counters with Milic, Chris Booker, Miha Zupan and Mirza Begic. Last week, Olympiacos head coach Pini Gershon went with a limited rotation and played mostly zone defense, keeping his stars out of foul trouble. However, his reserves hardly factored in the game, as six players off the bench combined for 4 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist in 39 minutes. Olimpija could try and use that knowledge to its advantage. Olimpija comes into the game as the clear underdog, but as usual cherishes that role. Head coach Memi Becirovic will naturally have some advanced scouting tips on the opponents, since his son Sani Becirovic stars on Euroleague champion Panathinaikos, which is Olympiacos's chief Greek rival. The Reds on the other hand may be comfortable with the "favorite" label, but that doesn't mean that Gershon's men will be any less prepared for the task at hand.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007