Five games into the Euroleague Regular Season, only one team remains untouched by defeat: Kinder Bologna. The defending champions passed their toughest test of the schedule so far with flying colors, blasting visiting Union Olimpija 86-70 in a game that was never close after the second quarter. Olimpija's star of a year ago, Sani Becirovic, led the winners with 15 points while Emanuel Ginobili added 13. Little in the way of heroics was needed with a collective effort by Kinder that effectively took Olimpija off the victory scent early in the contest. Olimpija got 16 point from Jiri Welsch and 15 from Haris Mujezinovic, but on this occasion, they seemed outnumbered. Kinder's record rises to 5-0 as it puts distance between itself and several Group B rivals. Olimpija falls to 3-2, third place behind Opel Skyliners, who defeated Ulker on Thursday.
Olimpija started with a triple by Beno Udrih against Kinder's zone. Marko Jaric answered in kind at the other end, and then Kinder took a 4-point lead following a flagrant foul called on Sando Nicevic. Kinder lengthened it againt thanks to a triple by Ginobili, and Olimpija hung on to Tunji Awojobi's free throws to stay into the game. Kinder led 11-5 after 4 minutes, and kept adding to its edge thanks to Jaric's steals and runs on the break. Olimpija got a nice dunk by Jiri Welsch, but could add nothing in the paint. Becirovic went in late in the quarter and travelled on his first touch. That came as Griffith picked up his second foul, from which Nicevic made a couple of free throws. Next, center Haris Mujezinovic made his first basket, giving Olimpija hope inside. Matjaz Smodis made a great drive on the last possession of the quarter to put the lead in double figures after 10 minutes, 26-16.
Becirovic opened the second quarter with an assist for Alessandro Frosini, who scored 6 points in a row thanks to great passes by Jaric and Ginobili, too. Olimpija got a triple and assist from Zdovc to pull within 30-24, but there followed a 7-0 Kinder run thanks to Smodis, who drew two fouls on Jurica Golemac and sunk a triple. Olimpija coach Zmago Sagadin went with a smaller lineup, but Kinder took a 16-point lead at 42-26. Mujezinovic and Awojobi were the only ones making things happen for the visitors, scoring all the points in a 5-0 run that ended with a turnover. Kinder exploited its physical strength, giving the ball to Griffith for 4 points. The big man from Chicago also blocked two shots, one leading to an Alessandro Abbio fastbreak layup and a 48-31 lead with 2:30 left until the half. Olimpija could not score. It's only break came when Griffith charged his third foul. Still, when Frosini closed the quarter with a basket, too, Kinder's lead was at 17 points lead after 20 minutes, 51-34.
The third quarter went similarly, with Kinder still holding a 60-45 lead when Becirovic broke an Olimpija zone with a three-pointer and fed Antoine Rigaudeau for another that made it 63-45. Mujezinovic fouled Griffith on a rebound a free throw added a point, but it dropped down by two points to 16, 68-52, by the end of the quarter. Olimpija made its only move in the first 5 minutes of the last quarter, as Welsch led his team withing 12, at 72-60, while Kinder could only get fouled. Smodis found the first basket from the field after 6 minutes a key triple, the one that stopped any thought of a comeback. By the time Becirovic sank a couple of free throws against his old teammates, the threat was forgotten, the lead was at 79-62 and the Palamalaguti crowd could serenade the only undefeated team on the continent.
Thursday, November 8, 2001