Union Olimpija kept in touch with all-important fifth place in Group A at the halfway point of the regular season when it shut down visiting Prokom Trefl Sopot 68-49 on Thursday in Ljubljana, Slovenia. An active defense that limited the guests to no more than 15 points in any quarter lifted Olimpija to a 3-4 record, good for a fifth-place tie with Zalgiris Kaunas. Prokom couldn't give new head coach Tomas Pacesas a gift and fell to 1-6, alone in last place. Jasmin Hukic and Marko Milic again led the winners with 16 points each, while young Goran Dragic followed with 15, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Prokom couldn't find the basket all night, shooting under 35% from the field and getting to the foul line only 4 times total. Jovo Stanojevic finished with 13 points and Christos Harissis added 10 for the visitors, who played without injured center Tomas Van den Spiegel.
Christos Harissis hit the game's first triple to give Prokom an early lead, but his team would soon find scoring more difficult as Milic, Hasan Rizvic and Dragic, with a spectacular steal and fullcourt dunk, put Olimpija up 8-3. Stanojevic ended Prokom's drought with a pair of short jumpers, but Chris Booker hit his own and the free throw to keep Olimpija strong at 11-7. Krzysztof Roszyk, making his first Euroleague start ever, buried a corner triple for Prokom, and a minute later, Wagner copied him to tie it up, 13-13. Wagner then capped the quarter with a two-pointer as Prokom took a 13-15 lead after 10 minutes.
Olimpija wasted no time reclaiming the lead as Hukic came in and opened the second quarter with back-to-back bombs from downtown. Maurice Bailey copied Hukic for the hosts, and despite Stanojevic's basket for Prokom, Miha Zupan made it 4 triples in succession for Olimpija, which suddenly boasted a 25-17 advantage. Mustafa Shakur of Prokom and Booker traded shots before Dragic downed free throws for the first double-digit lead, 29-19. Sasha Doncic scored 5 points to send Olimpija's margin as high as 12 points, although Donatas Slanina hit a triple for Prokom to trim the difference to 35-26 at halftime.
Prokom seemed poised for a comeback as Filip Dylewicz opened the second-half scoring with a tirple and the visitors' defense locked down Olimpija. Slanina canned a two-pointer next, then Stanojevic dropped in a basket, to make it 35-33. That's where Prokom's 0-7 run and Olimpija's four-minute scoring drought ended, however, as Hukic then blasted his third three-pointer, soon to be followed by a layup from Dragic. After Harissis and Dragic traded baskets, Dylewicz brought Prokom as close as 42-39. But Milic came on with 4 points for the hosts and Dragic buried another triple to make it 49-41 at the end of three quarters.
Hukic and Milic guarded the Olimpija lead with early baskets in the final quarter, and then the hosts did the rest on defense. A pair of early free throws by Slanina stood as Prokom's only points for 6 whole minutes until Stanojevic scored his team's first basket of the quarter. By then, Dragic had hit 2 more shots to put the hosts ahead by 57-43 and end all doubt in the matter. Hukic added a fourth triple to make sure and the only question was whether Prokom would reach 50 points. They didn't, marking the start of the visitors' hunt for a second-leg turnaround while Olimpija looks ahead to a Top 16 race.
Thursday, December 6, 2007