It was anything but easy, but Cibona VIP was able to knock off Tau Ceramica of Spain, 96-95, in overtime on Wednesday in their Group D opening game. The victory gave Cibona the unbelievable achievement of having knocked off the top four European teams of last season - the finalists of both the Euroleage and the Suproleague - in the span of just 8 days. There may have won with less drama against Panathinaikos, Kinder Bologna and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the friendly Euroleague Opening Tournament, but Wednesday's matchup with Tau was the official Euroleague opener, and that made it even sweeter. Cibona seemed to struggle to win all last season, though it was eventually vindicated when three of its group opponents reached the Euroleague semifinals. Cibona preferred real victories to moral ones, and Wednesday's thriller meant that all the promise of preseason had paid off.
Cibona came back from a 70-74 down late in regulation time on a three-pointer by Reggie Freemen (24 points) that followed an unsportsmanlike foul on Tau's Dejan Tomasevic (28 points) and two free throws by Niksa Prkacin. That turnaround eventually led to an 83-83 tie after regulation. In overtime, Tau ran into similar trouble and Cibona similar good fortune. This time, Tau's other leader, Elmer Bennett (30 points) was whistled for his fifth foul and a technical to boot. Zoran Planinic (14 points) sank all four free throws and a fifth when Bennett's substitute, Chris Corchiani, came in for the extra possession. Cibona now led 92-88. Tomasevic couldn't be slowed, however, and made a three-point play to put Tau back ahead, 92-93. Only a putback bu Matej Mamic, who had been quiet except for a key three-pointer, regained the lead for Cibona, then Marijan Mance sealed it with a pair of free throws.
Wednesday, October 10, 2001