Unicaja outlasts Ulm to lead group
A tense Group D battle went to down to the wire on Wednesday before visiting Unicaja Malaga held on beat ratiopharm Ulm 76-81 for its third consecutive victory. Unicaja raised its record to 4-1 and took over first place in Group B almost simultaneously as Buducnost VOLI Podgorica was losing in overtime at Mornar Bar. Ulm fell to 1-4 with its fourth straight defeat. Ulm trailed by 11-20 before putting together a 14-0 run bridging the opening quarters to eventually lead by a high of 33-27 before Unicaja's shooters reeled it back to a 41-41 halftime tie. Unicaja made the first shot after halftime and would never trail again, but had to hold on desperately late in the game. Francis Alonso paced Unicaja with 21 points while hitting 3 of the team's 13 three-pointers. Deon Thompson added 14 points while Axel Bouteille had all of his 12 points from deep and Tim Abromaitis scored 10. Dylan Ostetkowski led Ulm with 17 points, while Thomas Klepeisz added 12, Troy Caupain and Andreas Obst 11 each.
Thompson's early inside points, assist to Alberto Diaz for the game's first triple, and fastbreak dunk off his own steal quickly shot Unicaja in front 6-14. Obst's corner triple and Caupain's layup calmed the hosts briefly, but Alonso answered with back-to-baskets at 11-20. Klepeisz hit his first EuroCup points ever from deep and Per Guenther quickly followed him with 2 from the arc in a sudden 11-0, quarter-closing run for Ulm to a 22-20 lead. Klepeisz kept it going from long distance before Adam Waczynski ended Unicaja's six-minute scoreless drought at the free throw line. Abromaitis, from the corner, drew the visitors within 27-25. Caupain and Diaz traded three-pointers, as did Isaiah Wilkins and Dario Brizuela shots inside. Waczynski, Brizuela and Bouteille all stuck triples for Unicaja, the latter on the halftime buzzer, to forge a 41-41 tie going to the lockers. The teams stayed close early in the third quarter, separated by Bouteille's next three-pointer at 45-48. Soon, Thompson stepped out for his own and Bouteille followed as suddenly Unicaja surged in front 47-57. Klepeisz struck twice from deep for Ulm but Alonso got one back as Unicaja led 57-62 after 30 minutes. Alonso opened the final quarter from downtown but Ostetkowski answered with 2 plus a steal and assist to Trey Landers before Alonso was back from deep to make it 61-69. Ostetkowski and Caupain kept Ulm close and John Petrucelli's corner triple made it 70-71 with 5 minutes left. Bouteille reemerged then with a third-chance triple, while Petrucelli and Abromaitis traded jumpers. After Christoph Philipps hit free throws for Ulm, Obst drove for a layup for a 76-77 score entering the final minute. Abromaitis missed at one end and Petrucelli at the other before Ulm was forced to foul Diaz, who hit 1 of 2 free throws with 14.2 seconds left. Obst attempted and missed a quick triple before Thompson made 1 of 2 free throws, allowing Ulm a final chance. The hosts turned over the last possession, however, allowing Abromaitis to dunk on the buzzer.
Francis Alonso proved the difference for the visitors with his second 21-point game out of the last three, raising his EuroCup rookie scoring average to 15.2 points in five games. He made 3 of 4 two-pointers, 2 of 7 triples and 6 of 6 free throws and scored 8 of his points in that tense fourth quarter.
Unicaja was down 37-32 with 2 minutes left in the second quarter when Waczynski hit first of 6 three-pointers for the visitors over the next 10 minutes. Bouteille downed 3 of those as Unicaja took the game's first and only double-digit lead, 47-57, and never gave it up after that.
Thomas Klepeisz, another EuroCup rookie who was injured until now, entered with 5 minutes gone in the first quarter and soon took and landed his first shot in the competition -- a three-pointer. He went on to hit 3 more before the end of the third quarter, keeping Ulm close. Foul trouble kept him from doing more, but he finished having made 4 of 5 from downtown for 12 points in under 20 minutes, a nice debut by anyone's count.
Unicaja stays on the road in Round 6 to visit Boulogne Metropolitans 92 on Tuesday of next week. On the same night, Ulm hits the road to meet Mornar Bar.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020