Unicaja is back on the winning track in Group A after its 77-67 triumph at home in Malaga, Spain on Thursday ended Cibona Zagreb's three-game undefeated start to the season. With this win Unicaja climbs to a 2-2 record, with two home wins versus two road losses. It was Cibona first loss in Group C, though its 3-1 record still keeps it on top of the group. Boniface Ndong led the winners with 18 points, most of them in rim shaking dunks, in addition to 8 rebounds. Carlos Cabezas woke up with 14 points, Thomas Kelati added 13 while Carlos Jimenez and Robert Archibald had 10 each. Rawle Marshall kept Cibona in the game for long minutes with 25 points and no less than seven baskets from long distance in 10 attempts. Earl Calloway added 11. Cibona took a 20-21 lead early in the second quarter after Robert Troha hit the only three pointer of the night scored for Cibona not by Marshall, but a 16-3 run of Unicaja led by Ndong and Jimenez put the locals on top, and from there until the buzzer Aaito's team kept the lead safe. Cibona came as close as five points behind in the deciding quarter, but didn't find the way to make the difference and stay perfect.
Cibona won the tip off, but saw a very active Archibald who blocked Rozic on the first shot attempt and scored four in a row with post moves on the other side. Davor Kus showed his familiarity with the rims with a tough jumper, and then a lay-up, while at the other side Jiri Welsch picked two offensive boards, dished an assist and scored an off dribble mid-range jumper, as the teams were tied at 6-6. Kelati and Marshall exchanged the first three pointers of the night to create a 9-9 tie, before Kelati and Cabezas combined four points in a row as Unicaja pressured full court only to see Marshall break the press and soon after add a huge long range three pointer to set the score on 15-14. Ndong came off the bench and with four points in a row set the first quarter score on 19-16.
Troha had a great start for the second quarter with a crazy hook and then a three pointer, the only one by Cibona that Marshall didn't score, to give his team a 20-21 lead, but Jimenez answered from distance at the other side and dished Ndong a big assist on the fast break to see the center finish with a big slam. Cibona called for the first time out to stop the run, but Jimenez nailed a three ball from the other side, to make it 28-21. After big pressure on defense Cibona didn't find a chance to shot in 24 seconds, before Marshall finally broke the drought with another long distance hit. Both sides lost their rhythm, before Ndong stepped up. First he displayed his wingspan with a big offensive rebound on the way to another rim rocking dunk, followed by a mid-range jumper and finally finished a fast break with a lay-up to send Cibona to another time out, this time down 36-24. Calloway scored his first points after an offensive board, but Ndong dunked again to reach 15 first half points off an assist by Welsch on the way to a 40-26 local lead. Marshall missed two tough shots in a row, but Cibona's quick hands on defense forced turnovers, and denied Unicaja to get any further. Calloway finally broke three minutes of bareness with points from the line, but saw Cabezas quickly answer on the other end to finish the first half up 42-28.
Cibona started the second half with six points in a row, exploiting long range misses by the locals. A time out by Aaito was followed by two fast break lay ups by Cabezas, to make it a double-digit game once again, 46-34. Cibona turned the ball over too often and saw good ball movement by Unicaja, that finished with an open three hit by Kelati, 49-38 after five minutes in the third. Kelati added another jumper from the same spot and his next attempt danced around the rim to give Cibona some hope. Marshall hit twice in a row three pointers in front of the rim to keep his team alive just seven points behind, and soon it was just a five point game, but Omar Cook hit an incredible buzzer-beater from eight meters to enter the deciding quarter still with an eight point lead, 56-48.
Vedran Vukusic with a highlight behind the head assist allowed Jared Homan to make it 56-50 but a back door play right on the other side of court saw Kelati dish to Jimenez a pass for an easy lay up. Marshall nailed his fifth hit from long range, once again with a hand in his face, and the gap was five. Archibald connected four in a row, but an unsportsmanlike foul on Cook stopped the momentum. The Scottish big guy was still there to add another block, and use big defense of Jimenez on Marshall to add a steal and two points at the other side, before taking the bench with Unicaja up 64-55. Cibona tried to move closer with shots from long range but saw Unicaja expressing in fast breaks. Nevertheless, the visitors still fought for every ball, and Calloway took control with five points in a row to set the difference on 67-60 with three minutes to play. Ndong resumed his dunk action after a pick-and-roll but Marshall scored from the far corner to keep hopes ali
ve, but not for long. Cibona was looking for a stop on defense but couldn't find it, and after Cook scored two lay ups in a row, it was time to seal the deal.
Thursday, November 13, 2008