Union Union Olimpija proved it is not ready to end its Euroleague season yet as it beat up on Opel Skyliners in Frankfurt 56-79 on Thursday to force the last two Final 16 berths in Group B to wait for the final week of regular season play. Olimpija now moves into a three-way tie at 8-5 with Ulker and Opel, and only two of those teams will move on into the next phase. The schedule next week sees Ulker with the ostensibly easier match at home against struggling Peristeri, while Olimpija plays host to second-place Barcelona and Opel travels to Bologna to take on top-ranked Kinder. Thursday's game in Frankfurt game started out close but Olimpija jumped ahead in the second quarter to take a 10-point lead into the half. The third quarter saw Olimpija run away with the game as they built a 20-point lead going into the final period. Beno Udrih and Jiri Welsch led the winners with 27 points each. For Frankfurt, Marcus Goree scored 15, while Pascal Roller had 14.
Both teams started nervous into the game, exchanging lots of turnovers and drawing fouls. Marcus Goree received two early ones for the hosts and had to leave the court. The game was tied at 4-4 when Olimpija took control and pulled away with an 0-11 run to 4-15. Frankfurt did not score again until Chad Austin hit two freethrows with a minute to play in the quarter. Olimpija played a very aggressive defense and did not give Opel any good shots. The guests took a 8-21 lead into the first break.
After Olimpija, and especially Jiri Welsch kept on rolling ahead to 14-27, Frankfurt got back after a three by Kai Nurnberger and a dunk by Goree to make it 23-30. Then Frankfurt received two offensive fouls, enough for head coach Gordon Herbert to earn his first technical foul of the season. The hosts were too inconsistent and showed how nervous they were. Olimpija pulled away again and Frankfurt only scored on some free throws. At the half, the guests were up 26-36.
The third quarter belonged to Welsch, showing himself to be probably one of the biggest talents on his position in Europe. He led his team to a 20-point lead after 25 minutes, 32-52, and was not showing any mercy. Just everything went wrong for Frankfurt this night. Even Guard Pascal Roller continually missed his shots and finished the game with 8 turnovers. Olimpija took a 36-58 lead into the last break of the game. There was not much left in Frankfurt in the last quarter as they continued to make the same mistakes. They pressure just seemed too high.
Thursday, February 7, 2002