A two-time Final Four team pulled itself from the brink of Top 16 qualification trouble in Group B when Montepaschi won 74-70 thriller over Union Olimpija in Siena, Italy on Wednesday. Montepaschi's record climed to 6-5 and a sure piece of third place at least after overcomeing a tough challenge from Olimpija, whose record fell to 4-7. Bootsy Thornton guided the hosts to victory with 15 points and 7 rebounds. He was followed by the good performances of Roberto Chiacig and Michalis Kakiouzis, who bagged 14 points and 7 rebounds apiece. For Olimpija, Dusan Bocevski was the top score with 16 points, including 4 of 5 three-pointers. Vladimer Boisa and Marino Bazdaric drilled 13 points each, while Saso Ozbolt added 10 for Olimpija, which had enjoyed small leads well in to the final quarter. .
The battle started early in the frontcourt. Chiacig and Boisa got their teams going with 3 baskets each inthe paint. With Montepaschi ahead 10-6, Marijan Mance scored a three-pointer for the guests that opened up the backcourt scoring. Dusan Bocevski, played far from the rim to force Chiacig out of the core of Montepaschi's defense, sank a three-pointer for a 13-15 Olimpija lead. The big men went on ruling the match, even from outside, as Giacomo Galanda drilled his second triple. Dragisa Drobnjak came off the bench for Olimpija with 4 straight points before a sweet fadeaway jumper by Galanda and a drive by Andres Rodriguez of Olimpija left a 22-22 tie after 10 minutes.
Bocevski and Ozbolt fired from downtown as Olimpija went up 26-28 before leading scorer Marino Bazdaric took the court for the first time. David Vanterpool flew to the rim to tie 26-26 for Montepaschi. The two defenses took over and drove down shooting percentages, but Bazdaric awoke with 7 points in a row, first on free throws, then on his firs shot from the arc, near the end of the 24-shot clock. Vanterpool and Kakiouzis began playing a two-man game in which the latter dunked to highlight a 9-2 Montepaschi run. Vrbica Stefanov added a layup for the hosts, but Olimpija big man Smilijan Pavic answered inside to keep Montepaschi's advantage down to 43-41 at the half.
Vanterpool gavie the hosts a four-point lead to start the second half, but Olimpija came back ready to turn things around. Bocevski sank the triple and Boisa added a basket from close range as the visitors seized a 45-48 advantage. In the central part of the quarter, baskets were hard to come by as both defenses locked in against any big runs. Kakiouzis tied at 51-51 with a layup, then Chiacig took control in the paint and scored 5 straight points to close the third quarter with Montpeaschi holding a 56-53 advantage.
Olimpija seemed to find a three-pointer whenever it needed one, and so it was at the beginning of the last quarter, when Ozbolt took advantage of a defensive switch to strike from downtown. With 5 minutes to play everything was still balanced, 62-62. Thornton got the lead for Montepaschi with the most amazing play of the night, finishing a three-on-one break with a two-handed dunk, to which he added another slam for a 66-62 edge. Olimpija was saved then as Bocevski hit again from the 6.25 line, silencing the Siena crowd to watch him tie with a free throw and Bazdaric send the visitors back in front, 66-69, from the arc. Montepaschi looked to Thornton for two heavy possessions: he scored the first one with a close jumper and put the hosts ahead again, 70-69, with 2 free throws. After a pair of misses by Boisa, Myers earned and made 2 free throws with 23 seconds left for Montepaschi. When Kakiouzis stole from Rodriguez, was fouled and made his foul shots, Montepaschi had the match won and could breathe easier in Group B.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005