Unicaja turning back Union Olimpija 62-55
Unicaja flirted with danger at the end but finally took its first Group B win of the season before its home fans in Malaga, Spain by turning back Union Olimpija 62-55 on Thursday. On a night when all-time Euroleague scoring leader Marcus Brown returned to the Unicaja lineup and Olimpija saw another guard, Teemu Rannikko, get injured, both teams ended up with 1-3 records. Jiri Welsch led the charge for Unicaja with 16 points while Berni Rodriguez had 11 and Daniel Santiago followed with 10 and 9 rebounds. Sandi Cebular led Olimpija with 12 points while Rannikko had 10 before leaving injured in the third quarter. Hasan Rizvic pulled 10 rebounds for the visitors who trailed by double digits throughout the middle quarters. A late rally brought Olimpija within 4 points, but then the visitors missed 6 straight foul shots as time faded away.
Teemu Rannikko gave the guests a boost with a game-opening triple, assisted by Milic. Soon enough, however, Berni Rodriguez was copying him for Unicaja. Milic's layup gave Olimpija its last lead at 3-5 before Rodriguez, Cabezas and Welsch, the latter with a triple, made it 10-5. Welsch returned shortly to drive for a layup and drill a jumper, extending the lead to 16-7. Rannikko buried his second shot from the arc, but Florent Pietrus stepped up for Unicaja with a dunk-plus-free throw and Welsch added a layup for the first double-digit margin, which remained until the quarter ended at 23-12.
Welsch and Pietrus teamed up again on a pair of layups to boosted the lead to 27-12 early in the second quarter. Christian Maraker got those points back for the visitors before Erazem Lorbek and Carlos Cabezas made it 31-16 for Unicaja. The hosts blanked Olimpija's offense for almost 4 full minutes at that point, until Maraker reappeared inside for a basket. That is when the Malaga crowd got a charge from seeing Brown, who had entered a couple minutes earlier, sink his first shot of the season and the free throw that came with it as Unicaja coasted to a 36-20 halftime edge.
Olimpija got more contributors after the break as Hasan Rizvic made it to the line and Markoishvili drilled a jumper and a triple. But the guests only got within 44-27 then as Santiago authored a pair of layups for Unicaja. It wasn't till midway through the quarter that Olimpija made its first move, a 0-7 run between Milic, Rannikko and Sandi Cebular that trimmed the difference to 44-34. Unicaja got the lead back to 50-37 as Rannikko was injured on a layup by Michael Chylinksi, but Cebular and Markoishvili combinedon 5 late points to leave a 50-42 scoreboard after 30 minutes.
Unicaja again lifted its lead into double digits as Pietrus hit free throws and Santiago a dunk to open the final quarter. But again Olimpija came back. Rizvic, Cebular and Milic grouped a basket each around a jump shot from Brown to keep the guests withing 56-48. Rizvic went back inside before Cebular launched a triple and suddenly Olimpija was within 57-53. It was anybody's game over the next 3 minutes, but in that time, Olimpija missed 6 free throws without landing any, then Welsch hit the first pair Unicaja had a chance to make for a 59-53 advantage. Olimpija would end up making a single basket in the final 5 minutes as the Unicaja defense saved the first win of the season for the home fans.
Thursday, November 16, 2006