|Two teams with different goals in this Euroleague season will go against each other in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where Union Olimpija hosts Caja Laboral in Group C on Thursday. Olimpija is still looking for its first win and must bounce back right away to rejoin the Top 16 race. Meanwhile, Laboral beat Maccabi Electra last week and aims to confirm its status as one of the top candidates to win competitive Group C. These teams faced each other in the 1994 Saporta Cup final, in which Olimpija lifted its only European trophy to date. Laboral, however, has won its last four games in Ljubljana, including a 90-91 triumph last season. Olimpija will be most concerned with stopping All-Euroleague center Tiago Splitter, a difference-making big man by any means. Splitter leads a very versatile Laboral frontcourt that also includes three-point bomber Mirza Teletovic, mobile forward Lior Eliyahu and 2.18-meter center Stanko Barac. Gasper Vidmar and Vladimir Golubovic have the tough mission of guarding Splitter - as well as trying to get him into foul trouble in what could be a key to this game. Teletovic will test his unlimited range against Uros Slokar, while Eliyahu has an interesting matchup against Edin Bavcic. With former Laboral playmaker Vlado Ilievski still sidelined, Dusan Djordjevic and Sani Becirovic are set to share the point guard duties for Olimpija - even though both players can share playing time on the floor. Jaka Klobucar will also see playing time at both guard spots, leaving more space Matt Walsh to provide the fireworks at the wings. Walsh comes off a 32-point effort against Maroussi last week. Walsh will be tested by the Laboral scorers, Brad Oleson, Chris Lofton and Carl English. Becirovic must use his experience against Tau playmaker Pau Ribas. Meanwhile, Klobucar and Djordjevic will see most of the minutes against Marcelo Huertas. Laboral relies on Fernando San Emeterio to do all the dirty work - double teams, long rebounds, clutch shooting - that turns a team from good to great. Laboral must feed Splitter down low to create double-team situations and open shots for English, Oleson and Teletovic. Olimpija must rely on Becirovic and Walsh to fight for a very important home win. This game has all the signs – just like last year – of turning into a big thriller at Tivoli Arena.
REFEREES: Volodymyr Drabikovsky, Paolo Taurino, Elias Koromilas
Vlado Ilievski finished last season at Caja Laboral. He took part in 11 Euroleague games off the bench, helping the team reach the Quarterfinal Playoffs.
Big man Uros Slokar and Caja Laboral point guard Marcelinho Huertas were teammates last season at Fortitudo Bologna.
Edin Bavcic and Caja Laboral power forward Mirza Teletovic have been teammates on the Bosnia & Herzegovina national team.
Center Stanko Barac scored a Euroleague career-high 11 points against Union Olimpija last season. Barac also grabbed 8 rebounds and had 2 steals in just 16 minutes as Caja Laboral won 101-69.
Center Tiago Splitter scored a career-high 26 points in last week’s 86-81 victory over Maccabi Electra.
Forward Vladimir Micov and Union Olimpija center Vladimir Golubovic were teammates on the Serbia & Montenegro national squad that won the bronze medal at the European Under-20 Championships in 2005.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009