DKV Joventut marked its return to the Euroleague with a strong result by downing Union Olimpija 81-64 in Badalona, Spain, on Thursday. The hosts dominated the second half and took advantage of the visitors’ 21 turnovers to record a big win in front of their fans. Pops Mensah-Bonsu paced the winners with 14 points and 9 rebounds, while Demond Mallet, Bracey Wright and Pau Ribas each had 11 for Joventut, which travels to the Italian capital to face Lottomatica Roma next. Mirza Begic had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks for Olimpija, Vlado Ilievski added 15 and Marko Milic had 13 for the guests, who host Tau Ceramica in Week 2. Begic, Milic and a three-pointer by Ilievski allowed Olimpija to take an early 6-16 margin, but Henk Norel and Edu Hernandez-Sonseca brought Joventut within 17-18 after 10 minutes. Olimpija stayed in the game in the second quarter, as free throws by Milic tied it at 29-29, but 5 quick points by Jan Jagla gave Joventut a 34-31 edge at halftime. Mensah-Bonsu and Ribas took over in the third quarter and a three-pointer by Simas Jasaitis gave Joventut a 59-53 lead after 30 minutes. Joventut dominated as the fourth quarter began, using a 12-1 burst to boost its margin to 71-54 en route to a well-deserved win.
Olimpija came out on fire as Begic used his big frame to get some good looks for the game’s first two scores and Damjan Rudez triple made it 0-7. Mensah-Bonsu finally got Joventut on the board from the free-throw line, but Begic again and then Ilievski made it 2-11. The lead hit double figures on an Ilievski triple before Joventut started to get its feet. Slams by Norel and Hernandez-Sonseca charged the crowd. Then a Ribas three-point play cut even further into the deficit before another Hernandez-Sonseca slam and a Norel basket capped an 11-2 run that saw Joventut creep back to within 17-18 after 10 minutes.
Mallet drilled a three to open the second period and give Joventut its first lead. Begic tied the game inside and then traded baskets with Mensah-Bonsu. Jaka Klobucar and Begic gave the visitors a narrow lead only to see Joventut bounce back on a Mallet layup and a Pere Tomas three – the first points of his Euroleague career. Milic would tie the score at 29-29 from the line, but Jan Jagla hit another three and soon added free throws and Joventut would not trail again. Milic had another 2 free throws in him to make 34-31 at halftime.
Joventut stretched its lead as the third quarter got underway with a pair of Mensah-Bonsu free throws and a Tomas three-pointer to go ahead 39-31. Milic and Ilievski answered quickly though to keep Olimpija in the fight. A Rudez triple soon cut the gap to 41-38 and after a Mensah-Bonsu slam, Ilievski hit from downtown to make it a 2-point game. Mensah-Bonsu and Rudez traded scores before Wright was fouled shooting a three and proceeded to make all 3 free throws and give Joventut a little cushion. Ferran Lavina also came through from beyond the arc as the lead stretched to 51-44. Milic and Saso Ozbolt combined to cut the lead to 4 before Ribas and Ilievski swapped threes. With the period drawing to a close and after a botched Olimpija possession, Jasaitis beat the buzzer for a key three that made it 59-53 heading into the fourth quarter.
A Milic free throw opened the fourth-period scoring, but a Wright layup kept the hosts in control. The Olimpija offense ran into some turnover troubles and a Mallet triple punished them to make it 64-54. A timeout didn’t solve Olimpija’s scoring woes, while Wright attacked the basket for a basket and then dunked on the break to cap a 9-1 run and put Joventut up 14 midway through the final period. Ribas added another three that was like a dagger through the Olimpija hearts as the hosts put the game on cruise control, enjoying the closing minutes of a solid 81-64 win in front of their fans to open the Euroleague season.
Thursday, October 23, 2008