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Red Star is coming to town, Coach Messina: “We will have to play even better to beat them”


Olimpia will complete its home double round by hosting Red Star, a team already defeated in Belgrade a couple of months ago, after beating Baskonia. With no Nicolò Melli, the team’s best rebounder, Johannes Voigtmann stepped up, grabbed eight rebounds and scored 16 points at the end of his best performance for Olimpia. It is a good sign that the team prevailed with five men scoring in double figures, a sixth – Brandon Davies – at nine points and the help of many different players, practically all those seen on the court. Another solid performance will be needed to defeat Red Star, a team fighting for a playoffs’ berth, which has just lost in Bologna and in general is in the middle of a three-game losing streak. In the Belgrade game, Olimpia had interrupted a streak of six consecutive wins by Red Star which started with the arrival as a coach of Dusko Ivanovic. Shabazz Napier played for the first time against Baskonia for Olimpia, had ten points and three assists over 18 minutes on the court that allowed, among other things, to bring Devon Hall’s playing time back to more sustainable levels, 26:10 minutes, the lowest since Shavon Shields’ injury. For Olimpia it is the last game in Milan until 23 February when it will play against Panathinaikos Athens. In between, there will be three road games and the Italian Cup.

THE REFEREES – Juan Carlos Garcia (Spain), Mehdi Difallah (France), Amit Balak (Israel)

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We are coming off a very good game against Baskonia, a game that will give us confidence for the way we approached and the way we finished it. However, we will need to do even better to beat Red Star, a team in full playoff contention and needs to come back on track after the Bologna’s defeat. For us, it will be crucial to get some help from everybody, move the ball with patience and to control the rebounds. Other than that, we will have to reduce again the turnovers and be ready for a solid defensive game starting with their main scorers, not just Vildoza and Nedovic, but also the bigs, Bentil and Petrusev, who caused us a lot of trouble in Belgrade.”

RED STAR – Red Star is built around the great offensive efficiency of guards Luca Vildoza and Nemanja Nedovic. The Argentine, formerly in Vitoria and then also in the NBA in New York, is scoring 14.1 points per game with 4.0 assists and 42.6 percent on three. Nedovic averages 15.1 points and 3.4 assists per game. Among the guards, Red Star is very deep: Branko Lazic, one of the best defenders in the EuroLeague, often starts, doesn’t score much (2.8 points per game) but is often lethal from three-point range (50.0 percent). Stefan Markovic is a veteran, experienced and great defender (2.6 assists per game). Finally, there is aldo Nikola Ivanovic, 5.4 points and 2.2 assists per game. In fact, Coach Dusko Ivanovic uses a five-player rotation among the guards. The forwards are Ognjen Dobric (9.1 points per game, 2.9 rebounds, 60.0 percent shooting from two), Stefan Lazarevic (3.3 points per game, 63.0 percent on two) and John Holland (3.2 points per game). At the power forward positions, Red Star is counting a lot on Luka Mitrovic who, despite his size, can also play center, averages 7.4 points with 60.2 percent shooting and adds 4.9 rebounds per game. Ben Bentil, who is often a starter, is averaging 8.8 points, 4.0 rebounds per game and he is shooting 37.7 percent from three. The centers are the experienced Ognjen Kuzmic (2.5 points per game, 71.4 percent two), who wasn’t available in Bologna, and the emerging Filip Petrusev, a former Adriatic League’s MVP, formerly at Gonzaga, and a second-round pick of Philadelphia. Petrusev is scoring 11.0 points per game, he is grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 68.2 percent from two. In his last eight games, he has averaged 18.2 points per game with a 25-point outing against Valencia. In Bologna, Nebojsa Ilic (10 points, almost 18 minutes) helped the team too.

HISTORY VS. RED STAR– In 1972, Simmenthal defeated the Red Star 74-70 in the Cup Winners’ Cup championship game (23 points were scored by Arthur Kenney, the virtual MVP of the competition), held in Thessaloniki. The two teams had also faced each other during the preliminary round with two wins for the home team. The two teams also met in the 1973 European Cup, for two more Simmenthal wins. During the 1984/85 season, Olimpia eliminated Red Star in the Korac Cup semifinal winning both games and proceeding then to win the cup against Varese in the championship game. Two more games and two more wins came also during the 1988/89 Korac Cup. In the EuroLeague, Red Star has won six games in a row, including the Milan game of the 2020/21 season. Olimpia eventually broke the losing streak by winning in Belgrade in the return game of the 2020/21 season. Olimpia won both games last season, 79-62 in Milan with 18 points by Shavon Shields and 63-57 in Belgrade when Malcolm Delaney led the scorers with 18 points. Then, it won the Belgrade game in December 71-67 with 19 points by Billy Baron and 15 more by Brandon Davies. 12-7 is the all-time record in favor of Olimpia.

THE RED STAR CONNECTION Nemanja Nedovic has played 32 games with 307 points scored for Olimpia over two EuroLeague seasons. During his time in Milan, Olimpia won one Supercup. Ben Bentil spent the last season in Milan, winning the Italian Cup and the Italian championships. In the EuroLeague he appeared in 23 games with 129 points and 56 rebounds. Miroslav Raduljica has played in Milan the 2016/17 season winning one Supercup and one Italian Cup. In the EuroLeague he has played 29 games with 234 points and 93 rebounds. Billy Baron has spent two seasons in Belgrade playing for red Star and winning once the Adriatic League. He also made his EuroLeague debut during the 2018/19 season, scoring 301 points over 26 games. Stefan Markovic played in Bologna with Pippo Ricci between 2019 and 2021. Luca Vildoza has played in Vitoria with Shavon Shields and with Johannes Voigtmann.

GAME NOTES – Nicolò Melli has started in every game he has played since his return in Milan, 53 starts out of 53 games played. Kyle Hines is two blocks shy of 200 for his career, crossed the 700-point scored for Olimpia and is now two two-point field goals made away from reaching 300 for Olimpia. At the same time, he is six two-pointers shy of the club record of 304 held by Kaleb Tarczewski. Since he came to Milan, he has appeared in every single EuroLeague game, the next will be the 99th out of 99. Devon Hall is one of nine players averaging more than 30 minutes per game.