Joventut suffocates UNICS to seal Top 16 spot
Joventut Badalona registered its fifth win in as many games at home after beating UNICS Kazan 90-72 on Wednesday night. Joventut improved to 5-4 and, thanks to Nanterre 92’s win over Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana, secured its qualification to the next stage. UNICS Kazan suffered its third straight loss and is now tied with Darussafaka Teken Istanbul, Joventut and Germani Brescia Leonesa with 5-4 records. Joventut bounced back from a bad second quarter, in which it allowed 30 points, to keep UNICS to just 26 points in the second half to claim the win. Kemen Prepelic led six Joventut scorers in double figures with 15 points. Luke Harangody added 12 points, Nikos Zisis and Xavi Lopez-Arostegui scored 11 each and Alen Omic and Conor Morgan had 10 apiece. Raymar Morgan posted 18 points, 8 boards and 4 steals, while Errick McCollum collected 15 points and 6 assists for UNICS.
Prepelic set the tone in the early going with a triple and a three-point play to put Joventut in front, 8-2, but UNICS found an answer in Pavel Sergeev and Morgan to prevent Joventut from escaping too early. The former drilled a pair of threes, while Morgan was perfect from mid-range to tie it at 12-12 midway through the first quarter. Harangody broke the balance with his first three, while Omic and Kerem Kanter took over later before Morgan went for another bomb to make it 25-17 at the end of the first quarter. UNICS didn’t give up, using Morgan and Alex Tyus to secure its rim and finding McCollum on offense to get within 27-25. Even though Nenad Dimitrijevic sank a three right after that, a 0-9 run capped by the first triple by Jamar Smith gave UNICS its first lead, 30-34, and forced a much-needed timeout by Carles Duran. With both teams playing high-tempo basketball, the hosts reacted behind back-to-back threes by Lopez-Arostegui and Zisis, who added a couple of free throws and another triple of his own to allow Joventut to recover the lead, 43-39. The joy didn’t last for long, though, as Dmitrii Uzinskii and McCollum hit one each from downtown on a 1-8 run that closed the first half with UNICS ahead 44-47.
The hosts took advantage of an unsportsmanlike foul called on Artem Klimenko to tie it again right after the break, while back-to-back threes by Prepelic and Harangody, a hook shot by Omic and a layup by Harangody capped a 10-0 run to put Joventut back in front, 57-51, midway through the third quarter. UNICS's offense collapsed, so the hosts' advantage kept growing and reached double-digits, 68-55, when Perrin Buford finished a fastbreak with a powerful two-handed alley-oop dunk. Free throws by McCollum and Morgan allowed UNICS to reduce it to 68-58 entering the last quarter, but Joventut didn’t lose any momentum. The hosts slowed down the tempo, secured their rim and needed nothing but another good offensive stint sparked by Kanter and Morgan to make it 77-60 with 6 minutes to go to never look back. UNICS tried to recover, but nothing worked on offense, especially from long range, allowing Joventut to keep increasing the margin up to 90-67 with less than a minute to go.
Balance in offense
Joventut's offense proved strong once again, reaching the 90-point mark for the third time this season. It helps that they count on the best scorer of the competition, Kemen Prepelic, but Joventut found five more players who performed pretty well; Xabi Lopez-Arostegui, Conor Morgan, Nikos Zisis, Alen Omic and Luke Harangody scored 10 or more points.
Not in my house
Joventut stayed perfect at home, having won all its games at Palau Olimpic Badalona this season. Thanks to its perfect performance in front of its fans, Joventut secured a Top 16 spot and will travel to Ljubljana next week with the aim of clinching the first place of its group.
UNICS Kazan turned the game upside down in the second quarter, outscoring Joventut 19-30 behind 10 points by Errick McCollum. But, after the break, the hosts collapsed the UNICS offense and allowed just 11 points in the third quarter and 15 in the last. UNICS reached halftime on 7-for-11 three-point shooting, but missed its next 15 attempts after the break until late threes by Jamar Smith and McCollum in the last two possessions of the game went in.
In Round 10 next week, Joventut Badalona will travel to Ljubljana to face Cedevita Olimpija Lubljana on Wednesday. UNICS Kazan will try to secure its qualification to the Top 16 when it hosts Darussafaka Tefken Istanbul the same day.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019