Skipper Bologna set up a showdown at home in Bologna next week for the Final Four berth from Group E when it went on the road and slammed Union Olimpija 73-86 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Thursday night. Skipper improved to 3-1 and stayed tied with Efes Pilsen for first place in Group E. Efes visits Bologna next week. Olimpija's hopes to make the Final Four evaporated as its record dropped to 1-3 with a second loss to Skipper. Milos Vujanic and Hanno Mottola led the winners with 22 points apiece. Vujanic made 8 of 12 two-pointers while Mottola made 7 of 7 free throws, and Gianluca Basile added 16 points for Skipper. Marino Bazdaric led Olimpija with 16 points and 7 rebounds, while Dzenan Rahimic added 13 points and Saso Ozbolt chipped in 10 for the hosts.
Skipper opened the game at full speed, with a 1-7 run in which Basile drilled a three-pointer and Smodis added a basket in the paint. Mottola and Smodis dominated the boards, while Olimpija could not find the way to the basket, missing 5 of its first 6 shots. A layup in penetration by Vujanic and 5 points by Mottola extended Skipper's lead to 3-16 midway through the quarter, following 2 foul shots by Basile. Olimpija entered the foul bonus soon after that, and everything seemed to go wrong for the hosts, as Patricio Prato added a left-handed layup to make it a 15-point game at 5-20. The hosts' defense was poor, and Skipper took over with superb shot selection. Marko Maravic stepped up for Olimpija with 6 quick points, but the hosts only managed to exchange baskets with Skipper. A late three-pointer by Vujanic gave Skipper a 17-32 lead after 10 minutes during which the guests had outrebounded Olimpija by 10-5 and drilled all 4 of their shots from downtown.
Vujanic and Basile combined for 6 points early in the second quarter as Skipper's lead reached 19-40 on a fastbreak dunk by Carlos Delfino. Olimpija struggled on both ends of the court until Saso Ozbolt and Aloysius Aganonye combined for all the hosts' points in a 9-4 run which brought them within 30-47 after 17 minutes. But then Erazem Lorbek, back at Hala Tivoli to face his former team, drilled a three-pointer, which Delfino followed with a slam and Mottola a six-meter jumper for a new 22-point Skipper lead, 32-54. Rahimic and Anagonye combined on 4 foul shots to cut the difference to 36-54 at halftime. Olimpija had made only 11 of 32 shots by then while Vujanic, Mottola and Basile had combined for 41 of Skipper's points.
Olimpija needed a quick comeback early in the third quarter, but instead went scoreless for 2 minutes during which a put-back by Mottola and a strong drive by Basile re-opened a 22-point advantage at 36-58. Only then did Olimpija wake up, as a basket by Marino Bazdaric sparked a 12-2 run in which Ozbolt drilled a three and Vladimer Boisa added 5 points. That brought the hosts within 48-60, but Skipper used some showtime, with incredible reverse layups by Mottola and Basile, to keep a safe lead at 50-65. Mottola was unstoppable in the offensive end, but Olimpija continued to cut into the lead with a five-meter jumper by Smiljan Papic and free throws by Pero Dujmovic that made it 59-69 after 30 minutes.
Olimpija struggled to score early in the fourth quarter, too, going pointless for almost 4 minutes. Meanwhile, Skipper went on a game-breaking 0-7 run in which Vujanic had 5 points that extended the guests' lead to 59-76. Olimpija's defense couldn't contain Skipper long enough for the hosts to threaten any further. A two-handed slam by Smodis helped Skipper extend the margin to 61-78. Skipper entered the final 2 minutes with a 67-84 lead after a triple by Prato, and cruised to a comfortable win.
Thursday, March 25, 2004