A game which saw double-digit leads for both teams turned into a last-second thriller with overtime included as Union Olimpija beat Pau-Orthez on the road 89-91 in Group A on Thursday night. The first half was clearly for the Slovenians, but in the third quarter, a 30-15 run put Pau-Orthez back on track. Olimpija was able to force the extra session, however, and then prevailed thanks to the better free throw accuracy. With the win, Olimpija improves to 2-0 in Group A to stay undefeated, while Pau-Orthez drops to 0-2, having lost both games by a total of three points. Dzenan Rahimic led 6 Olimpija scorers in double figures with 17 points. Roberts Stelmahers added 16, Simon Petrov 13, Marko Maravic 12, Marino Bazdaric 11 and Vladimer Boisa 10 for the winners. For the hosts, Cyril Julian had 18 points, Dragan Lukovski and Florent Pietrus 15 each, and Laurent Foirest 13.
As expected, tha game started fast. Julian scored Pau's first 6 points of Pau-Orthez, but Rahimic matched him for an 8-8 tie. Pau tried a zone defense severeal times but that didn't stop Vladimer Boisa from posting back-to-back threes for a 12-14 Olimpija advantage. The strategy of the Slovenians was clear: run at the minimum chance they had to do so, while Pau tried to feed the ball into the paint for Mate Skelin. The turnaround jumper of Aloysius Anagonye over Skelin was the last lead the guests would have until the end of the first quarter as Nate Erdmann hit a triple from the side to leave Pau ahead, 20-17, after 10 minutes.
The sceond quarter didn't start very well for the hosts apart from the opening basket by Florent Pietrus. Olimpija came up big with a 2-9 run thanks to Maravic and Petrov. That was a turning point. Pau would struggle from there, and never recovered the lead during the half, despite getting as close as 27-28 on Fabien Dubos's four-meter jumper. Another Olimpija burst sealed by Smiljan Pavic's triple and a layup from under the board by Rahimic earned the Slovenians the first double-digit lead, 27-37. The spark that Pau needed was a technical foul called on Roberts Stelmahers which allowed the hosts score 5 straight points, 32-37. Rahimic answered with 4 consecutive points, but a last penetration by Lukovski got Pau within 37-41 at the break.
The second half would turn into a scoring festival for Pau-Orthez as first Lukovski and later Foirest, from the arc, put the hosts ahead again, 46-45. Lukovski drove his team effortlessly while driving Olimpija's defense crazy. Two straight dunks by a great Pietrus kept Pau going, while Stelmahers maintained his team from the free throw line. Frederic Fauthoux's triple set the crowd on fire as Pau's lead entered double digits, 61-50. Olimpija coach Saso Filipovski tried everything, but a four-point play by Fauthoux for 67-56 sealed the 30-15 partial score in the third quarter that left things looking good for Pau.
But a calm final period for the French team was not to be. Turnovers hurt Pau badly, while Bazdaric woke up for good from the arc, and then a jumper by Stelmahers pulled the guests within 70-65. A technical foul called on Anagonye to foul him out allowed Pau its last double-digit lead at 78-67 with 4 minutes to go. And then, when nobody expected it, the Slovenians erupted with a 0-7 run on points from Boisa, Maravic and Stelmahers. Suddenly, it was it 78-74. Two more turnovers by Pay, followed Lukovski's foul on Petrov, who posted both free throws, made it 82-80 and 70 seconds to go. The final 16 turnovers for Pau-Orthez were clearly the key to the loss of the hosts, and that saved Olimpija who shot under 50% at the end of the game (28 of 59). Julian pulled a great board to draw a foul but only hit 1 free throw attempt for an 83-80 Pau lead. The game entered a fouling trend of which Olimpija emerged victorious as Stelmahers, in one of his many visits to the free throw line, hit both attempts to tie the game at 84-84 after regulation.
The extra session never saw any team pull away for good. The scoreboard advanced through free throws and the largest lead during the last 5 minutes was a 87-89 for Olimpija. In the final minute, Erdmann committed a big mistake to give the ball to Olimpija. But after suffering a foul, Darrell Tucker missed 1 free throw for 89-91. With 10 seconds to go, Pau would have the decisive play in its hands, just like the previous week in Zagreb against Cibona. But again, the French squad failed to put the ball in as another turnover let another game slip away for the French champs.
Thursday, November 13, 2003