Unicaja showed its power right at the start of the Euroleague Top 16 by downing Lottomatica 75-88 in Rome, Italy in Group G on Thursday night. Unicaja and Panathinaikos tie for first place in this group, each with a 1-0 record. Unicaja hosts Panathinaikos in Malaga, Spain next week in an already highly-anticipated showdown. Meanwhile, Lottomatica travels to Belgrade, Serbia to face Partizan, as both teams will be looking for their first win in Group G. Marcus Haislip led the winners with 22 points. Boniface Ndong added 15 and 8 rebounds while Thomas Kelati had 13 points for Unicaja. Ibby Jaaber led Lottomatica with 12 points. Rodrigo De La Fuente and Primoz Brezec each had 11, Jacopo Giachetti had 10 while Angelo Gigli pulled down 10 boards for Roma, whose star guard Sani Becirovic was limited to just 6 points and went scoreless in the opening 28 minutes. Carlos Cabezas and Ndong fueled a 0-11 Unicaja run that put the guests ahead for good, 14-29, early in the second quarter. An outstanding Haislip allowed Unicaja to keep a 34-48 margin at halftime. Free throws by Haislip made it a 20-point game, 46-66. Jaaber fueled the guests' comeback, as his wild put-back dunk brought the hosts within 73-78. Haislip, Berni Rodriguez and Kelati stepped up in crunch time to seal the outcome down the stretch.
Jiri Welsch got Unicaja going with a layup while Haislip struck from downtown for a 2-5 Unicaja edge. Jaaber sank a triple that Roberto Gabini followed with a fast break layup to give the hosts their first lead, 7-5. Haislip scored again but De La Fuente answered with a baseline jumper. An unstoppable Haislip shined with a driving layup but Brezec put Roma back ahead, 12-11. Robert Archibald scored down low while Rodriguez added a driving layup for a 12-15 Unicaja margin. Haislip - who else? - collected a steal and raced downcourt for a layup-plus-foul. Lottomatica kept struggling to score until De La Fuente sank another mid-range jumper. Rodriguez hit foul shots while Cabezas followed a backdoor layup with a running jumper to make Roma call timeout at 14-24. The hosts did not find answers in offense. Meanwhile, free throws by Ndong gave Unicaja a 14-26 lead after 10 minutes, as Luigi Datome's 15-meter bomb came right after the buzzer.
Carlos Jimenez hit a free throw while Ndong sank a short jumper to cap a 0-11 Unicaja run and give the guests a 14-29 margin. Gabini got the crowd involved with a three-pointer but German Gabriel and Ndong scored around the basket to boost their team's lead to 17-33. Gabini kept pacing Lottomatica with a big basket in the low post, as Lottomatica tried to change the game momentum with Becirovic and Brandon Jennings together on court. Kelati, however, struck twice from downtown to break the game open, 21-39. De La Fuente and Archibald traded foul shots while Hutson stepped up with a power layup. Giachetti took over with an acrobatic basket and soon added free throws to give Roma some hope, 28-40. Jimenez beat the hosts' 2-3 zone defense with a corner triple and even when Giachetti stayed on fire, Ndong scored down low for a 30-45 score. Giachetti hit more foul shots that Haislip matched with a power layup. Gigli shined with a tip-in to bring Roma within 34-48 at halftime.
Jaaber fired in a three-pointer immediately after the break but Welsch scored in penetration for a 37-50 Unicaja lead. Welsch shined with a layup in transition that made him leave the game with an injury. De La Fuente nailed a jumper that Rodriguez improved with a corner triple. De La Fuente insisted with free throws while Giachetti banked in a running shot to give Roma some hope at 43-55. Jimenez silenced the crowd with his third three-pointer and even when Hutson scored again, Haislip provided a highlight with an outstanding alleyoop dunk. Haislip soon added free throws to make it a 17-point game, 45-62. Ndong scored in the low post while an unstoppable Haislip added free throws to break the game open, 46-66. Brezec nailed a baseline jumper that Ndong matched with a two-handed dunk. Becirovic stepped up with 4-for-4 foul shots and soon added a layup to bring Roma back to life, 56-68. Unicaja called timeout and Joseph Gomis sank a triple while a tip-in by Brezec fixed the score at 56-71 after three quarters.
Gigli took over with a wild three-point play early in the fourth period but Haislip immediately answered with a six-meter jumper to keep Unicaja way ahead, 59-73. Brezec followed a power layup with a jumper while Jaaber scored off a steal to bring Roma back in the game, 65-73, with 7 minutes to go. Gabriel stepped up with a jump hook while Kelati nailed another bomb from downtown to give Unicaja some fresh air at 65-78. Datome stepped up with a put-back basket off a Roma timeout while a big basket by Gigli got Roma as close as 69-78. Jaaber scored in penetration and added a wild put-back dunk to make it a five-point game, 73-78, with 3:25 minutes to go. Haislip provided another highlight with a driving dunk that Rodriguez followed with free throws to seal the outcome, 73-82. Kelati and Gigli traded baskets but a dunk by Archibald allowed Unicaja to seal a key road win in style.
Thursday, January 29, 2009