Cibona VIP of Zagreb had its third straight win in the Group D, 85-71 against visiting Partizan of Belgrade on Wednesday. Cibona improved its record to 5-7 and retained its slight option to qualify to the Top 16. Besides beating its eternal rival from Belgrade, Cibona would win any possible tie-breaker with Partizan as it overcame the point differential of having lost in their first meeting by five points. For its part, Partizan is still alive in the competition with a 6-6 record, but now has to win the two games remaining, one in Pesaro and the other at home against Asvel. The man of the game was Cibona's Josip Sesar who netted 28 points (4 of 7 threes). Matej Mamic helped with 16 more points (4 of 7 threes as well) and played great defense against Vlado Scepanovic. Davor Kus contributed 12 points with 4 of 9 three-pointers. For the losers, Scepanovic led the way with 17. Jovo Stanojevic and Milos Vujanic posted 15 each.
Sesar, the polemic player who clashed with former coach Neven Spahija, justified the confidence of his new coach, Jasmin Repesa, with a three-pointer in Cibona's first offensive play, a clear signal of who was going to be the protagonist of the night. After 2 minutes and 10 seconds the score was 9-2 with 7 points by Sesar himself, and Partizan's coach Dusan Vujosevic was forced to call a first timeout that did not fix things. Not even with the change in the playmaking spot, with Milos Vujanic subbing Vule Avdalovic, made a difference. Only one team showed up to play, and that was Cibona. Four minutes later, the score was 18-4 and Vujosevic called the second timeout, but Cibona managed to maintain its wide lead. That edge was even increased as Cibona held a three-point festival, making 6 of 8 from downtown against Partizan, the league leader in long-distance shooting, to take a 35-20 lead after one quarter.
In the second period, Partizan improved its offense and got closer little by little, and after 3 straight threes, one by Scepanovic and two by Veselin Petrovic, the score was 39-33, which forced Repesa to call a time out. Sesar came back on court and with threes by Matej Mamic and Davor Kus, Cibona pulled away again by 14 (53-39). At this point, the game was interrupted because the crowd that sold out Drazen Petrovic Arena for the first time this season started throwing objects onto the court. Home players Niksa Prkacin and Sesar had to ask the fans to calm down. Some minutes later, the referees gave green light for the resumption, and at the break, the Croatians were 16 points ahead, 58-42.
In the second half, the crowd was cooler after the threat of the officials to suspend the game. Cibona was in control without any problems. Partizan improved its defense a little bit with a zone, but missed too many baskets on offense. Its best weapon, long-range shooting, didn't work too well tonight as Scepanovic, Vujanic and Canak shot from uncomfortable positions, while Prkacin, Mamic, Bowman and Freeman kept on pulling boards with no opposition for Cibona. The hosts played easy because everything was in their favor. Kus, Sesar and Mamic continued with their particular three-point shoot-out (12 of 26). At the end of the third the lead for Cibona was 15 points, 75-60 and at the end of the game, the 18-point gap, 85-71, showed that the hosts were too much of a rival for Partizan tonight.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002