Despite breaking a seven-game losing streak by beating Union Olimpija 69-48, Lottomatica Roma will miss the Top 16 after losing a fourth-place tiebreak in Group C. Roma finished with a 4-6 record, tying Maroussi BC, but could not advance after losing both of their games together. Olimpija finished 1-9 in last place. Roma took over Thursday's game immediately as Ibby Jaaber scored 6 points in an opening run of 13-0. Although Olimpija came back within single digits later, the outcome was never in doubt. Jaaber paced the winners with 23 points on 9-of-12 two-pointers and 7 rebounds. Ricky Minard added 11 points while Luigi Datome had 10 for Lottomatica, that made Olimpija pick up as many as 21 turnovers. Gasper Vidmar led Olimpija with 8 points. Even when 9 players scored for the guests, nobody registered double digits. Roma allowed 15 points in the first half - just one point away from the Euroleague's all-time record. Benetton allowed Asvel to score 14 points in the first half of a regular season game back on November 26, 2003.
Jaaber opened the scoring an easy layup that was a signal of Roma's strategic intentions. The ball stayed with Jaaber for another pair of driving baskets as Roma went up 6-0. As Olimpija missed every shot it took, the story line changed only in that Jaaber now assisted Minard for Roma's next score. As the hosts' defense confounded Olimpija, Winston joined the fun with the game's first three-pointer and then Luca Vitali fed Andrea Crosariol for an easy bucket in the paint to make it 13-0. But Roma had not broken Olimpija's will. Vladimir Golubovic ended almost 8 scoreless minutes for the visitors by converting an assist from Curtis Millage, after which Pawel Kikowski nailed a three-pointer at 13-5 as the first quarter finished after 2 minutes scoreless for both sides.
Herve Toure joined the Roma scorers to start the second quarter, and soon a steal and dunk by Winston put the lead at 17-5. A fnger-roll by Nemanja Aleksandrov was the answer for Olimpija, but for awhile, neither team could score until Jaaber went coast-to-coast for a one-handed underhand layup. Olimpija needed a timeout, after which Minard buried free throws at 21-7. Olimpija found Gaspar Vidmar inside for a layup, but remained stuck in single digits for awhile still. After a timeout, Vitali and Crosariol combined again for a pick-and-roll swinging dunk. Crosariol and Vidmar exchanged points again before Walsh finally found the bottom of the basket on a layup, lowering the difference to 24-13. Vitali restored it to double-digits with a short jumper. Walsh answered with a tip-in, but Angelo Gigli finished the half with his own, on the buzzer, as Roma stayed in charge, 28-15.
Gigli kept up the Roma push with a dunk to open the third quarter and double Olimpija's score. When Mindard lined up in the corner for a big triple and Jaaber put back a miss, it was 35-15. After a timeout, Vidmar tired to spark Olimpija with a huge two-hand dunk, but Minard matched it with a reverse. By the time both Jaaber and Luigi Datome fired in strikes from the arc, the Roma lead was up to 46-20. Roma's defense did not let up, either, as a string of steals and some free throws to pull into the final quarter with a 49-28 lead.
If everybody in Rome seemed to have one eye on Athens and the Maroussi-Maccabi score, that didn't include Olimpija. The visitors refused to give in as Klobucar and Sasa Ozbolt led a 0-5 start before Golubovic added his own 5 points to end the run with a 49-38 scoreboard. Jaaber came to Roma's rescue with 3 consecutive driing baskets - much like he had started the game - to suddenly put the difference out of reach again at 55-37. When Minard added a dunk, the only questions left were how much of a defensive mark would Roma give itself and what would be the result in Athens. Alas, neither panned out, as Olimpija reached 48 points and Maroussi rallied past Maccabi to claim Group C's last berth in the Top 16 from Roma.
Thursday, January 14, 2010