Union Olimpija gave its home fans in Ljubljana, Slovenia hope for a miracle when it downed visiting Virtus VidiVici Bologna 75-60 on Thursday to stay alive in the Top 16 - only the find after that the math had suddenly got a lot tougher. Olimpija moved up to 4-9 and still holds sixth place in Group A, but it's only hope for the Top 16 - finishing with the best sixth-place record across the three groups - is an even longer shot. That's because Group C's sixth-place team, Partizan, won by 48 points. Now, even if Olimpija wins its last game, it needs Partizan to lose and the combined margin of those results to be 98 points. What is sure is that Olimpija will keep fighting, as it did from the opening tip on Thursday, and went the entire 40 minutes without trailing on the scoreboard. Marko Milic again led the winners with 20 points, and got help from Jasmin Hukic, with 15, Maurice Bailey with 13 off the bench and Goran Dragic with 10. Bologna, under the orders of new head coach Renato Pasquali, had only Dewarick Spencer with 14 points reach double figures.
Boris Gorenc started and got Olimpija on the board before Milic and Dragic lifted the hosts ahead 6-3, although baskets soon proved hard to come by. Fabio DiBella answered for Virtus, then Spencer drilled the game's first three-pointer to tie it up, 8-8. Milic banked a jumper, before Roberto Chiacig and Mirza Begic traded free throws, with Olimpija still up, 12-10. Begic dropped a jumphook and Hukic buried a corner triple too boost Olimpija lead to 17-10 before Luca Garri and Milic traded tip-ins for a 19-13 score after 10 minutes.
Hukic drove untouched to open the second-quarter scoring, then a long lull ended with Bologna's Federico Lestini flying in for a dunk. Milic answerd right back, however, then Hukic stepped behind a screen and drilled a triple good for a 26-15 lead. Lestini had the answer for the guests, also from downtown, but only got help from Andrea Michelori. Meanwhile, Bailey hit a long two-pointer, Hukic bombed again from deep and Milic banked again to make it 36-23 for Olimpija. Spencer reappeared with a triple, but Bailey put back an offensive rebound and hit free throws for Olimpija's biggest lead yet, 40-26. Guilherme Giovannoni got 3 points back the hard way for Bologna, and Lestini launched a triple on the buzzer to cut the difference to 43-32 at the half.
Gorenc started the second-half scoring, too, and when Begic followed him, the difference was up to 47-32. Donnie McGrath's triple proved a spark for Bologna, and by the time he hit another, with Spencer and Giovannoni adding two-point buckets, the Olimpija lead was trimmed to 51-42. Spencer now hit from long-range and Chiacig from the paint as Bologna drew within 54-47. Olimpija needed someone to come to the rescue, and it was no surprise whom that someone was. Milic dunked and tipped-in a rebound to restore the double-digit difference, 58-47, before the third quarter ended.
Trading baskets to start the final quarter got Bologna within single digits again at 60-51 on Spencer's basket. A scoreless minute then ended with Hasan Rizvic stepping up with a three-point basket-plus-free throw for Olimpija to make it 63-51. Michelori and Dragic also traded baskets, which was all that the visitors could manage down the stretch as Olimpija kept its double-digit edge to the finish, adding a few points to the many needed to keep its season alive.
Thursday, January 24, 2008