Round of 16 preview: Cibona v Stelmet
ZAGREB (FIBA Europe Cup) - Having reached the FIBA Europe Cup Quarter-Finals last season, Cibona Zagreb are en route to repeating the achievement after coming away with a double-digit victory on the road against Stelmet Zielona Gora in the first leg of the Round of 16 tie in Poland.
Although their early breakaway efforts were shot down by the Polish side, the Damir Mulaomerovic-coached Croatians managed to pull away after intermission and eventually celebrated an 81-69 victory behind a team-high 16 points by high-flying youngster Nik Slavica.
Although Stelmet hit twice as many threes as the Croatian club, Cibona really punished Zielona Gora with size, outscoring the Polish hosts 42-26 inside the paint and made up for lack of three-point shooting by converting on 61% of their two-point attempts.
Four frontcourt players reached double figures in scoring for the visitors, which helped to mask a sub-par game by the team's leading scorer Scottie Reynolds, who still finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals, but committed a season-high 7 turnovers.
For Stelmet, Thomas Kelati and Karol Gruszecki were the only effective players on the court, scoring 19 and 15 points respectively after hitting three triples each and combining for 34 points, all but matching the output of the rest of the team.
When the teams line up for the return game at the Drazen Petrovic Basketball Center, Zielona Gora head coach Artur Gronek will expect more from the likes of Vladimir Dragicevic, Lukasz Koszarek and Nemanja Djurisic.
Meanwhile, Cibona will hope to keep up the stellar defensive form they demonstrated in Zielona Gora, which undoubtedly has a lot to do with the arrival of experienced veteran Luka Zoric, who bolstered up the side defensively.