With its back against the wall in Group C, Skipper Bologna lived to fight another day on Thursday by outlasting a beleaguered Real Madrid 93-77. The victory at home in Paladozza arena lifts Skipper to 6-6 and fifth place, one victory behind Pau-Orthez and CSKA Moscow, who are tied for third place at 7-5 each, one game behind Madrid (8-4). Skipper will play both Pau and Skipper, the former at home the latter on the road, in the final two regular season games. Reborn veteran center Zoran Savic led Skipper on Thursday with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals in just 24 minutes as he took advantage of Madrid's decimated frontline. Marko Milic had three great dunks among 20 points and Gregor Fucka added 17 for the winners. Veteran leader Sasha Djordjevic did all he could with 24 points, but Madrid will have to wait to try to seal a high place in the group.
Skipper started with great defensive will, agressive on the perimeter and denying Real Madrid each ball inside. Visiting coach Sergio Scariolo started with his two centers, Zan Tabak and Dragan Tarlac, playing side by side in the absence of third big man Eric Struelens, one of three Madrid regulars left back in Madrid, either sick or injured. Skipper center Emilio Kovacic defended Tarlac well. Marko Milic stepped up 6 points in a row, mainly in transition, to gave Skipper the first notable lead of the game, 12-5 after 5 minutes. Real found inside baskets with Djordjevic and his new backcourt mate, Stefano Attruia, and Scariolo chose to mixed defences again. This time it was a triangle-and-two, with Meneghin guarded by Vukcevic and Basile by Attruia. But Skipper kept up its intensity and lengthened the lead to 22-13 thanks to an unbelievable tap-in by Milic. Djordjevic stopped the escape with a triple, and the quarter ended with Skipper leading by 7 points, 25-18.
Skipper had good opportunities in the second quarter, but missed too many easy shots. Meneghin missed on a curl, Kovacic twice in the paint, and Real's defense was taking care of the rebounds. As such, the visitors managed to forge an 0-9 run without Djordjevic on court, coming up with their first lead of the game, 25-27. Now Madrid lengthened the run thanks to 2 three-pointers by Djordjevic on the break, but Skipper did not lose contact and kept up the pursuit with two good drives by Milic. Madrid hung on to a 42-44 lead at the break, and did the better job of boxing out as both frontcourts were suffering foul trouble: Kovacic, Fucka, Tabak and Tarlac each had 3 fouls.
The Madrid injury problems - which included the absences of Struelens, Alberto Herreros and Lucion Angulo - got worse. Tarlac didn't come back on the bench after halftime, and soon Tabak's ability to continue was suspect for another reason, his fourth foul. Both teams played several minutes of zone defense, and Skipper survived on Savic's drives inside. Triples came on both sides, but Savic and Fucka slowly began to rule under the boards, especiallly on offense. Skipper escaped to a 58-52 lead and hung on to those 6 points until it could close out the quarter ahead 69-63.
Savic opened the final quarter with a triple, but Real opened the court with its pick and roll to get Tabak two basket that got the visitors back into the game. Real changed the front of the zone to a 3-2 setup and Skipper found ways through it to an 80-73 lead with 4 minutes thanks to an Andrea Meneghin jumper. Still, free throws by Tabak and Djordjevic took Madrid back into the game, 80-77, within the minute. That's when Savic found the happy corner to sink the triple that, followed by a couple Meneghin free throws, that assured Skipper and its fans a couple more drama-packed games in Group C.
Thursday, January 31, 2002