Union Olimpija dove back into the Group E race by knocking off mighty Efes Pilsen 68-57 at home in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Thursday. Olimpija used a 10-0 run early in the second quarter to go ahead and stay there for good, cruising to a victory that left both teams with 1-1 records in Group E, tied for second behind undefeated leader Skipper Bologna. Saso Ozbolt came off the bench to lead the winners with 18 points. Marino Bazdaric added 14 plus 9 rebounds, Pero Dujmovic 12 and Vladimer Boisa 11. Ozbolt had 5 of Olimpija's 22 assists. Efes got 16 points from Trajan Langdon, and 10 each from Kaya Peker and Goran Nikolic.
The two teams answered each other basket-for-basket through the first five minutes, which ended with Boisa hitting the game's first three-pointer for a 9-8 Olimpija lead. Dujmovic, having known Efes well from when he played for Ulker earlier in the season, already had 4 points. Bazdaric followed Boisa with another triple for a 12-8 lead, but Langdon copied that and Nikolic added a layup to put Efes ahead 12-13. Dzenan Rahimic would score from close to tie, 14-14, before Ozbolt came on and scored Olimpija's next 6 points, putting the hosts up 19-15. Niksa Prkacin answered with a three-point play for Efes, but Bazdaric matched him with a shot from the arc for a 22-18 Olimpija lead after 10 minutes.
To start the second quarter, Olimpija took a double-digit lead with a 10-0 run built on back-to-back triples by Bazdaric and Dujmovic. Efes stayed alive thanks to 4 consecutive points by Peker and Nikolic but Bazdaric made Efes pay for a turnover by scoring a layup that put Olimpija ahead 34-25. Efes cut the lead down to 6 points after an Arslan triple and Peker free throws, but Aloysius Anagonye and Boisa nailed back-to-back jumpers to boost Olimpija's edge back to double digits, 41-31. Nikolic's putback allowed Efes to cut the difference to 41-33 at halfime.
Olimpija's dominance continued into the second half with a quick 7-2 run to a 48-35 lead, the biggest so far. Efes cut the lead down to 10 after a Granger free throw and an Ermal Kuqo basket, but Bazdaric quickly pushed Olimpija back up to 51-38 after nailing a triple on Ozbot's fourth assist. Olimpija seized its biggest lead, 17 points, on Dujmovic's put-back for 55-38. Langdon responded with his second three-pointer, but Ozbolt cancelled it out with his own version on Olimpija's next possession. Nikolic scored in the paint on a Kerem Tunceri assist as Efes pulled within 56-45 to end the third quarter.
Efes continued to narrow the deficit early in the fourth quarter as Langdon drilled his third three-pointer for a 56-48 scoreboard. Again Ozbolt came up big, however, repsonding in kind, but baskets by Langon and Peker got Efes within 59-54. Boisa then stepped up and made two huge baskets for Olimpija. First he took a Bazdaric assist for a layup then dropped in a triple off a pass from Ozbolt. Efes tried to answer quickly, but Alper Yilmaz failed on a three-point attempt and Anagonye made a jumper on the other end to boost Olimpija's lead to 66-54. Olimpija kept up the pressure after a late Efes timeout, pushing ahead 68-56 on a dunk by Anagonye. One free throw by Langdon was all Efes had left, making it 68-57, as time ran out.
Thursday, March 11, 2004