| Union Olimpija registered its first win in Group C by downing Lottomatica Roma 87-70 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Wednesday night. Olimpija broke its four-game losing streak and may rejoin the Top 16 race if it downs Maccabi Electra at Hala Tivoli next week. Meanwhile, Lottomatica dropped to 3-2 and faces a pivotal road game against Caja Laboral next week. Sani Becirovic led the winners with 24 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists against his former team. Saso Ozbolt added 15 while Uros Slokar had 12 for Olimpija, whose scoring leader, Matt Walsh, was sidelined with an ankle injury. Kennedy Winston had 18 points for Lottomatica while Jacopo Giachetti added 10. An outstanding Becirovic had 13 points in the first quarter to give Olimpija a 23-21 edge after 10 minutes. Olimpija improved its defense from that moment and started to hit open shots with Becirovic and Vlado Ilievski together on court. Edin Bavcic led a 14-2 run that put the hosts ahead for good, 37-23, while Becirovic took over late in the second quarter to make it a 20-point game, 48-28, at halftime. Jaka Klobucar buried 3 consecutive triples to break the game open, 57-30, and Roma never recovered.
Olimpija tried to run the floor from the very beginning with Jaka Klobucar, Becirovic and Saso Ozbolt in its starting lineup. Kennedy Winston got Lottomatica going with a second-chance layup, but Becirovic answered from downtown for a 3-2 Olimpija edge. Andre Hutson shined with a power layup as Olimpija kept running its offense through Becirovic. He buried a six-meter shot for a 7-4 score. Ibby Jaaber finished a long Lottomatica offense with a triple, but Olimpija had already adjusted its defense. Becirovic recorded a fast break layup as the hosts opted to open the floor with Nemanja Aleksandrov at power forward. Uros Slokar scored inside, but a jumper by Hutson and a driving layup by Ricky Minard put Roma back ahead, 12-13. Becirovic followed free throws with a mid-range jumper before a put-back layup by Rodrigo De La Fuente kept the guests on top 16-17. Vlado Ilievski sank a triple off the dribble and Ozbolt also struck from downtown for a 23-19 Olimpija lead. Free throws by Herve Toure fixed the score at 23-21 after 10 minutes.
Ilievski fired in a catch-and-shoot seven-meter bomb early in the second quarter. A technical foul on Lottomatica coach Nando Gentile allowed Ozbolt to make it a 7-point game. Lottomatica went scoreless for more than two minutes until De La Fuente nailed a five-meter shot. Slokar followed free throws with a reverse layup, as Roma struggled at both ends now. A tip-in by Edin Bavcic make the guests call timeout at 34-23. A red-hot Bavcic capped a 14-2 run with a wide open three-pointer, but Olimpija entered the foul bonus and the guests made the most out of it. Jaaber shined with a power layup and a jumper by Minard got the guests within 37-27. Olimpija went back to its go-to guy, as Becirovic buried a mid-range shot and added an uncontested layup. Ozbolt stepped up with a driving basket while a big triple by Dusan Djordjevic made it a 19-point game. Olimpija continued to dominate with outstanding defense and a put-back layup by Gasper Vidmar sent the crowd to their foot and boosted the hosts' margin to 48-28 at halftime.
Both teams struggled to score for two long minutes right after the break. Olimpija tried to slow down the game tempo. Lottomatica improved its intensity in defense but failed to find the way to the basket. Winston stepped up with an off-balance driving basket, but Klobucar bettered that with a three-pointer and soon struck again from downtown for a 54-30 Olimpija lead. Klobucar downed his third triple in less than a minute to break the game open, 59-30. Jacopo Giachetti and Luca Vitali tried to ignite the guests' comeback with free throws, as Olimpija struggled against the guests' zone defense. Bavcic stepped up with a reverse layup in transition for a 60-37 score. Becirovic scored again in penetration, but Minard bettered that with a three-point play. Free throws by Vitali, Giachetti and De La Fuente fueled a 0-8 run that Minard capped with a driving layup that gave Roma some hope, 62-48. Aleksandrov sank foul shots to give Olimpija a 64-48 margin after 30 minutes.
Olimpija improved its defense to stay away of trouble early in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Becirovic beat the shot clock with a big triple that gave the hosts a 67-48 lead. Lottomatica tried to attack the basket to get Olimpija into the foul bonus, but a technical foul on Vitali allowed Ozbolt and Slokar to seal the outcome, 71-48, with less than eight minutes to go. Both teams fought now for point differential, a critical issue in multiple-way ties. Moreover, both teams had entered the foul bonus really early and tried to play aggressive to get to the free throw line often. Ozbolt downed a big triple against Roma's zone defense while a stop-and-pop jumper by Becirovic gave Olimpija a 78-51 lead. Everything was said and done already, as the Olimpija fans had plenty of time to enjoy a big win in a do-or-die game.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009