| Caja Laboral climbed into the Top 16 on Wednesday with a 62-53 win over Union Olimpija at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain. Laboral improved to 6-2 in Group C and will share the top spot with the winner of Thursday’s clash in Moscow between CSKA and Maccabi Electra. Laboral hosts Maroussi in Week 9 before its showdown with CSKA in the regular season finale. Meanwhile Olimpija slipped to 1-7. The hosts used a 13-0 second quarter run to pull away for a 36-21 halftime lead. Sani Becirovic breathed some life into what seemed a dead game, scoring 8 straight points to spark Olimpija when it was down 17 in the third quarter and later making it 52-48 midway through the fourth quarter, but Tiago Splitter stood tall in the closing minutes, scoring twice to restore a double-digit margin and adding 2 free throws to seal the win. Despite outrebounding Laboral 26-34, 19 turnovers and 4-for-24 three-point shooting (16.7%) were too much for the Slovenian cha,ps to overcome. Splitter paced the winners with 15 points, Fernando San Emeterio added 11 and Mirza Teletovic had 10. Becirovic, who was scoreless in the first half, ended up with 14 points, while league-leading scorer Matt Walsh was held to a season-low 9.
The hosts got on the scoreboard first on a pair of free throws by San Emeterio. Gasper Vidmar broke the ice for Olimpija on the following play. The pace was slow early and Olimpija enjoyed that to take a 3-6 edge on 2 free throws from Dusan Djordjevic. Teletovic started to heat up with a jumper and a triple, but Djordjevic soon knotted the score at 8-8. Teletovic fed Stanko Barac inside for the big guy’s first basket, however continued his red-hot start with a triple for a 10-11 Olimpija lead. At that point Laboral took it up a notch. Marcelinho Huertas came off the bench for his first basket since his injury, Teletovic scored inside and then Pau Ribas fed San Emeterio and Barac on back-to-back plays to finish an 8-0 run. Pawel Kikowski finished the quarter with a layup to keep Olimpija within 18-13 after 10 minutes.
Teletovic drilled a three to start the second quarter, but Uros Slokar’s basket and 3 free throws by Kikowski had the visitors close at 21-18. Laboral got Splitter involved down low and Ribas fed a cutting San Emeterio to put the hosts up 7. A basket by Vladimir Micov and a San Emeterio triple gave Laboral its first double-digit lead of the night. Lior Eliyahu added a basket before Splitter capped a 13-0 run from the line to make it 34-18. Walsh sank a three-pointer to end the Olimpija drought, but Splitter tacked on another basket to make it 36-21 at halftime.
Walsh opened the second half with a jumper, but Olimpija was unable to generate any momentum. Fast break baskets by Eliyahu and Carl English soon had the hosts up 17. Becirovic tried to ignite his team with a three-pointer and a drive to the basket. Another Becirovic triple had both teams taking notice as the Laboral lead suddenly shrunk to 9. Splitter and Barac scored low as Laboral tried to regain control, but a three-point play by Walsh made it 44-36. Barac and Becirovic traded baskets. Becirovic continued his strong quarter with a basket and 2 more free throws, giving him 12 points in the quarter. A Barac block on Becirovic prevented him from cutting more of the lead and the quarter ended with the hosts up 48-40.
Edin Bavcic further narrowed the gap with a pair of free throws at the start of the fourth quarter. Micov weaved through the Olimpija defense for an important basket, but Vladimir Golubovic scored in transition to keep it close. English fed Micov only to see Curtis Millage pick up his first points on a tip-in. Becirovic battled through the Laboral defense for a tough layup to make it 52-48 midway through the quarter. San Emeterio banked in a shot at the other end and Splitter added a tough basket to restore an 8-point cushion. Olimpija continued to fight hard on both ends of the floor, but missed three-pointers and turnovers damaged its chances. Splitter put the hosts back up by 10 with a hook shot that practically sealed the win.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009