Union Olimpija won its first Turkish Airlines Euroleague season opener on the road in 10 years as the Ljubljana side beat Mapooro Cantu 84-71 to tip off Group B play.
Game Report: Olimpija aces opener in Cantu
Union Olimpija won its first Turkish Airlines Euroleague season opener on the road in 10 years as the Ljubljana side beat Mapooro Cantu 84-71 to tip off Group B play. Olimpija finished the game on a 21-7 run with 4 three-pointers for its first opening road win since at Unicaja Malaga in 2002 - a streak of seven straight defeats. Aron Baynes collected 16 points and 12 rebounds, Dylan Page scored 17 points, Sasu Salin added 15 points and Jaka Blazic chipped in 12 for the winners, who will head home next week to face Fenerbahce Ulker. Cantu committed only 8 turnovers but shot just 38 percent and allowed Olimpija to shoot 55 percent for the game. Pietro Aradori led the way for Cantu with 16 points and 8 rebounds while Manuchar Markoishvili added 13 points and Jeff Brooks had 10 in the losing effort. Cantu, which reached the regular season through the qualifying rounds, next plays its first road game of the season next week at Panathinaikos.
First quarter: No clear dominator
Marco Cusin opened the scoring with a dunk for the host side and Baynes hit his team’s first points of the season with a tip-in to tie the game at 2-2. Page and Markoishvili both went inside and long distance for a 7-7 game after five minutes and the first timeout of the game. Page tallied again before Maarten Leunen hit from long range and Aradori converted for a 12-9 advantage. Ljubljana continued to work hard on the offensive glass with Baynes scoring five straight points and Drazen Bubnic’s jumper from the left wing forced a Cantu timeout as Olimpija led 12-16. The advantage was six points – 12-18 – after two Bubnic foul shots as the guest team reached the bonus. Cantu captain Nicolas Mazzarino stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer but Bubnic dropped down a baby hook shot for a 15-20 cushion. Brooks, however, gave the host team a bit of momentum going into the second quarter with a basket just before the buzzer as Cantu trailed 17-20 after one quarter.
Second quarter: Things stay close until break
Cantu came out more effective in the second quarter, getting an easy lay-in by Marko Scekic and a steal and dunk by Brooks for a 21-20 lead. The game went back and forth with seven lead changes featuring a Brooks offensive rebound put-back and two free throws for Cantu and triples by Teemu Rannikko, Blazic and Page for a 30-35 Olimpija advantage. Cantu had not helped itself by this point making just five of 10 free throws before Jonathan Tabu’s jumper trimmed the margin to 32-35. Leunen buried two foul shots and Jerry Smith’s breakaway lay-up gave Cantu a 36-35 advantage. Baynes, however, continued his superb game with a tough inside basket and an offensive rebound tip-in only to watch Aradori knock down a turnaround jumper for a 40-39 lead. Ljubljana however went into the break ahead 40-41 as Salin hit a layup just before the buzzer for the road side.
Third quarter: Lead changes all around
Salin’s jumper opened the scoring in the second half and a Blazic layup kept Olimpija ahead but Markoishvili put back a rebound, assisted on Cusin’s dunk and nailed a long triple to give Cantu the lead 47-45. Ljubljana continued to go to Blazic and Baynes to take the lead 49-51. Alexander Tyus knotted the game but Page answered with a layup and a Salin three-ball pushed the advantage to 52-56. Cantu continued their free throw woes as Brooks made just one of two to cut the deficit to 53-56 for the home team. Alen Omic calmly hit two freebies and Blazic made one of two as Olimpija opened the biggest lead of the game 53-59. And that was the score after three quarters.
Fourth quarter: Threes give guests the edge
Aradori nailed a three-pointer to make it 56-59, but the Italian side picked up four fouls in the first minute of the fourth quarter and Rannikko and Klemen Prepelic both split two foul shots for a 56-61 Olimpija lead. Tyus grabbed an offensive rebound and converted a three-point play and Aradori finished baseline layup to knot the game again at 61-61. Blazic answered with another basket for the guest team only to send Aradori to the foul line for three free throws to give Cantu the lead back 64-63. Olimpija reclaimed the lead with two Baynes free throws and the gap was 64-67 after Salin’s two foul shots following a huge offensive rebound halfway through the fourth quarter. Page’s triple from the right side and another Baynes free throw pushed the advantage to 66-71 with just more than three minutes to play. And then Prepelic nailed a long three-ball late in the shot clock to give Ljubljana its biggest cushion at 67-74. Salin followed with two more triples for a 69-80 lead inside a minute to play.