Joventut finishes season undefeated at home
Joventut Badalona finished its 2019-20 EuroCup season in style by topping Unicaja Malaga 101-86 at home on Wednesday. Joventut, which was eliminated earlier in the Top 16, finished third in Group G with a 3-3 record. Unicaja topped the group with a 4-2 record and will face Umana Reyer Venice in the best-of-three quarterfinals. Xabi Lopez-Arostegui led six Unicaja scorers in double figures with 20 points, Klemen Prepelic added 15, Nenad Dimitrijevic and Conor Morgan each scored 12 and Kerem Kanter 11 and Artirs Zagars 10 for Joventut. Dario Brizuela paced Unicaja with 23 points, Adam Waczynski and Melvin Ejim each scored 14 and Deon Thompson had 10. Unicaja led 67-70 through three quarters before Luke Harangody starred in a 12-0 run that gave Joventut the lead for good, 77-73. Prepelic and Joel Parra stepped up in crunch time to lead Joventut to its final EuroCup win of the season.
Thompson got Unicaja going with a couple of jumpers. Parra answered with a reverse layup, igniting a 6-0 run that Dimitrijevic capped with a driving basket that gave Joventut its first lead, 6-5. Volodymyur Gerun scored around the basket and Ejim added a stop-and-pop floater that saw Unicaja regain the lead, 7-9. Lopez-Arostegui scored off a steal, but Brizuela found his first points and fed Waczynski for a three-pointer in transition. Lopez-Arostegui and Albert Ventura each struck from downtown and Zagars added a driving layup for a 17-16 Joventut lead after 10 minutes. Lopez-Arostegui sank his second triple early in the second quarter. Brizuela downed a mid-range jumper and Waczynski added one from beyond the arc, but Kanter singlehandedly kept Joventut ahead, 26-21. Ejim rescued Unicaja with a driving layup and a three-pointer, keeping Unicaja close at 28-26. Frank Elegar matched a Prepelic layup with a big slam, but Zagars struck from downtown for a 33-28 Joventut lead. Unicaja found a go-to-guy in Brizuela, who had 4 points in a 0-7 that Pablo Sanchez capped with a triple for a 33-35 lead. Morgan dunked and Lopez-Arostegui scored off a steal, but Elegar and Brizuela kept Unicaja ahead, 37-39, at halftime.
Parra scored in transition soon after the break, but Waczynski hit a triple and Thompson added a jump hook for a 39-44 Unicaja lead. Prepelic sank his first three-pointer and got help from Morgan and an outstanding Kanter to bring Joventut a bit closer, 51-55. Gerun answered with a couple of close baskets and got help from Waczynski to keep Unicaja ahead, 56-62. Lopez-Arostegui hit back-to-back triples, but Sanchez answered from downtown after a timeout for a 62-65 lead. Zagars rescued the hosts, but Ejim kept Unicaja in charge, 67-70, after 30 minutes. Brizuela hit a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Luke Harangody answered from downtown, igniting a 12-0 run that he highlighted with a put-back basket to cause Unicaja to call timeout at 79-73. Brizuela rescued the visitors with a floater, but Dimitrijevic quickly restored an 81-75 lead. Prepelic stepped up with a driving basket, a steal and an assist to a Morgan three-pointer for an 87-79 lead with 3 minutes left. Josh Adams tried to change things with a layup-plus-foul, but Parra allowed Joventut to seal the outcome, 92-82, as Unicaja never recovered.
Xabi Lopez-Arostegui was unstoppable all game long, confirming he has a very promising future. He finished the game with a career-high 20 points on 4-of-6 two-point shooting and 4-of-7 three-pointers. Lopez-Arostegui added 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals for a PIR of 20, also a personal best.
A three-pointer by Dario Brizuela gave Unicaja a 67-73 lead early in the fourth quarter. Luke Harangody answered from beyond the arc, Xabi Lopez-Arostegui and Oliver Stevic each scored around the basket and once again Harangody finished a hustle play with a put-back basket. Nenad Dimitrijevic capped a 12-0 run that allowed Joventut to take full control of the game for good.
Joventut outrebounded Unicaja 36-27 with 13 offensive boards. It dished 21 assists - nine different players had at least one - and limited Unicaja to just 13. All that allowed Joventut to rank a team PIR of 111, its second-best mark this season; it amassed a team PIR of 113 in a home win against Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana in October.
Did you notice?
Unicaja will have the homecourt advantage in a playoff series for the first time. Unicaja won the 2016-17 EuroCup by winning three playoffs series - against FC Bayern Munich, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Valencia Basket - without homecourt advantage. Last season, Unicaja fell 2-1 to ALBA in the quarterfinals, also without that advantage.
Joventut finished its EuroCup season with an 8-8 record. It was undefeated at home, 8-0, but not being able to get a road win the entire season, 0-8, prevented the team from getting past the Top 16. Unicaja marches on to the playoffs - Game 1 of its series against Reyer is scheduled for mid-March.
Wednesday, March 4, 2020