Union Olimpija beat CSKA 81-72
The fight for first place in Group D continued even as a historic streak ended when Union Olimpija defeated visiting CSKA Moscow 81-72 on Wednesday before another soldout crowd of 13,000 at Stozice Arena in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Olimpija remained perfect at home and improved to 6-3 overall, tied on victories with Panathinaikos but sitting second on point difference heading into the last week of the regular season. CSKA, meanwhile, fell to 2-7 and last place after its amazing eight-year Final Four run officially ended earlier in the evening when Efes Pilsen won. Apart from a couple second-quarter ties, Olimpija owned the scoreboard all game, turning back every CSKA comeback attempt thanks to three anchors. Saso Ozbolt led the way with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in 37 minutes. Damir Markota follwed with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, while Kevinn Pinkney scored 16. For CSKA, Andrey Vorontsevich scored 18 and Jamont Gordon 11.
Ozbolt got the sellout crowd pumped up with a triple on the game's first possession. After that, points were hard to come by until a steal sent Trajan Langdon for a fastbreak layup to get CSKA's scoreboard moving. That loosened the nets, as Ozbolt and Ramunas Siskauskas traded short jumpers at 5-4. Ozbolt fed Kenny Gregory for a baseline dunk before Pinkney buried a triple in transition to make it 10-4 for the hosts. Ozbolt added another short jumper to the lead, but the other story was Olimpija's defense and rebounding. After a timeout, Matjaz Smodis connected inside to get CSKA unstuck, but Pinkney answered. Langdon soon canned a triple from the corner, however, bringing CSKA within 14-10. Ozbolt hit free throws that Holden matched with a driving layup, just as Damir Markota's triple was answered by Vorontsevich to leave a 19-15 scoreboard after 10 minutes.
A pair of dunks by Giorgi Shermadini to start the second quarter lifted Olimpija's lead to 24-18 before Vorontsevich, who had also dunked in between, lifted his team on his shoulders. His back-to-back triples vaulted CSKA into a tie at 24-24. Markota took it upon himself to revive the hosts then, breaking another tie with a dunk and a triple in succession before Vlado Ilievski copied him from downtown. When Pinkney followed them with a dunk of his own, Olimpija was suddenly up double digits again, 36-26, and CSKA needed a timeout. Although Smodis and Langdon tried to make things happen, Ozbolt returned for his next triple and a high lead of 39-28 until then. He and Markota then put the cherries on top of a half they owned with back-to-back three-pointers that sent Olimpija sailing iinto halftime with a 45-32 lead.
J. R. Holden lowered the difference with a shot from the arc to start the second half, and soon CSKA was within single digits again, 48-39, on layups by Gordon and Dimitry Sokolov. The same duo and Langdon trimmed the difference further, and then Vorontsevich rejoined his teammates with a fastbreak layup to make it 52-48. Olimpija needed a big play and got it from Ozbolt, with a steal and finish at 54-49. CSKA had its own go-to guy, Vorontsevich, who buried a new triple, but Pinkney matched him with a put-back plus free throw. Gordon picked up the pace with a driving layup as CSKA got within 57-56 at the end of 30 minutes.
Goran Jagodnik's driving off-hand layup came with a free throw that he made, too, putting Olimpija ahead 60-56 to start the final quarter. When Pinkney rejected Alexey Shved, Vorontsevich saved the rebound and fed his teammate for a jumper. CSKA had no answer for Pinkney inside, and Jagodnik got loose on the arc for a triple at 65-60. The rhythm stayed the same, with Olimpija a step ahead thanks to 5 points shared again by Ozbolt and Markota, while Nikita Kurbanov and Shved copied them at 70-65. The hosts were content to trade baskets the rest of the way. Kurbanov cut the difference to 76-72 in the final minute, but that would mark the last gasp for the visitors. Olimpija's fans were already dancing in the aisles while CSKA was going home, to stay, for the first time in nine years.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010