Union Olimpija Ljubljana lived to fight another day in Group G on Thursday with a hefty 87-66 home win over Adecco Asvel on Thursday. The 25 points by Jasmin Hukic and the 20 by Goran Jurak were enough for Olimpija to run its Top 16 record to 3-2, good for a second-place tie with Olympaicos. Olimpija also saved itself a Final Four option, which will only be materialized if it can win by 20 on the road next week against group leader Barcelona (4-1). If the Slovenians win by less than 20, Olympiacos will advance if it also wins at Adecco Asvel. A Barcelona victory would confirm its presence at the Final Four. In Thursday's victory, Vlado Ilievski added 14 points for Olimpija. Andre Owens and Sacha Giffa led the way for Adecco with 13 points each, but the French champs fell to 0-5, joining Virtus Bologna in Group F as the only winless teams in the Top 16.
The start of the game was usual as Olimpija started with a press defense which deprived Asvel of scoring during the first 2 minutes and 40 seconds, earning a 7-0 record. But when the game entered the 4th minutes, the guests had already jumped ahead 7-8 after Simon Petrov's basket. Until Giffa didn't score his seventh point in minute 9 for a 18-14, neither team managed to pull away, but at the end of the first quarter the thing was close again for a 18-20 lead for Asvel.
Since the French team arrived to Ljubljana only with 10 players, coach Tomo Mahoric started with the changes soon, which at the beginning disoriented the hosts a little. The first two offensive plays by Asvel in the second quarter ended in the basket, first with Marko Bulic's triple and then with Giffa's fastbreak for 18-25 in minute 11. But just as Asvel had done in the first quarter, Olimpija also turned the score upside down thanks to 8 straight points by Hukic with two triples and a jumper for 28-27. Until the end of the first half, the Slovenians led the way, as Vlatko Ilievski, with 11 points in the first half controlled Olimpija's game.
The first noticeable lead for Olimpija in the second half arrived with 45-50, and was neutralized with two baskets by Vasco Evtimov and one by Stevin Smith, with which the balanced game that both coaches had promised, started. And it remained like that until the 20 final seconds of the third quarter, when Hukic scored his third three to get the maximum lead again for the hosts, 60-55. Asvel managed to improve to 60-58, but then Jurak took the game in his hands. He scored 7 of the first 9 points of the hosts in the last quarter, 69-60. In the following play, Hukic hit his fourth three, 10th for Olimpija, at the same time as the speaker in the arena announced the score in Piraeus. It was the sign for the fans to cheer louder than ever for their team, as their team rolled over Asvel in the last three minutes, and won by such a big gap that didn't reflect what happened on court.
Thursday, April 10, 2003