Trento beats Unicaja, blasts into Top 16
Dolomiti Energia Trento defeated visiting Group D winner Unicaja Malaga on Tuesday night 88-76 to seal a place in the Top 16 for the third consecutive season and fourth in as many 7DAYS EuroCup participations for the club. Trento raised its record to 5-5, good for a fourth-place finish in Group D. The home side needed the victory to ensure its continuation without needing other teams to lose on Wednesday, when the regular season concludes. Unicaja, already assured of the top spot in Group D, fell to 7-4. The lead swung early and often but slowly, Trento started to assert its dominance and took a lead into the third quarter that would never be given up. A 12-0 scoring run in the second quarter had been the impetus as Trento went from trailing by 26-32 to leading by 38-32. James Blackmon led all scorers with 19 points and Alessandro Gentile wasn't far behind with 17. Rashard Kelly and Davide Pascolo both finished with 12. Dario Brizuela was Unicaja's talisman with 14, while Josh Adams hit for 13 and Adam Waczynski 11.
Unicaja started better and led 3-7 midway through the quarter behind 5 points from Adams. Blackmon's three-pointer kept Trento close at before the home side retook the lead at 10-9 on free throws by Pascolo. Waczynski had 2 triples in him before the first quarter ended, but Trento still clung to an 18-17 edge. Gentile got Trento off to a good second quarterm too. He scored to make it 22-17 but Unicaja stayed near with a triple from Brizuela, who quickly added 5 more points to shoot the guests in front, 24-27, on the way to a 26-32 advantage. Blackmon answerd with 5 of his own to make it 31-32 before Trento retook the lead on George King's long-range strike. Blackmon was on target again and extended the lead to 38-32. Like clockwork though, Unicaja came back with 4 points from Ruben Guerrero. Blackmon wanted to keep the distance between the sides and landed another three on Trento's way to a 45-37 advantage at halftime. A pair of baskets by Pascolo made it a double-digit difference, 49-37, to start the third quarter. Jaime Fernandez and Adams responded with triples to keep Unicaja within 51-43, and though Trento continued to score almost at will, Adams went deep again to keep the visitors in touch at 55-48. Blackmon soon copied him at 67-51, however, as it was all Trento for a while. Unicaja wasn't out of it though, as Carlos Suarez closed hte gap to 71-61 after three quarters. A slow start to the fourth quarter ended with Brizuela and Waczynski hitting free throws to draw Unicaja within 74-66. When Brizuela hit another three, it was suddenly 76-71 with 4 minutes left. Kelly eased the pressure on the home side by making it 81-74. And when Toto Forray followed that up, Trento had withstood Unicaja's surge and marked its spot in the Top 16.
Trento trailed 26-32 midway through the second quarter when Blackmon scored a basket off Aaron Craft's steal and assist. Blackmon and Craft would share 5 free throws each while George King buried a shot from downtwon. Then Blackmon came back with another basket to complete a 12-0 run with Trento holding a 38-32 lead, which it did not relinquish the rest of the game.
For the second game in a row, Alessandro Gentile was a bulwark of scoring for Trento, with 17 points. That was 20 below his standout performance of 37 a week earlier, but he shot a lot less this time and found the chance to dish 4 assists. In the end, he made 7 of 14 two-pointers and 3 of 6 free throws for his second-best total on the team. Trento is headed to the Top 16 in good measure because Gentile got hot at the right time.
When Trento needed a big game, its most experienced players provided it. All three of its top guns on Tuesday -- Gentile, Blackmon and Pascolo -- scored above their season averages on a night when the team as a whole scored 9 more points above its average. Pascolo saw the biggest jump. He is averaging just 3.6 points per game but landed 12 with 7 rebounds to boot in a much-needed performance for his team.
Both Trento and Unicaja move on to the Top 16, which starts on January 8, 2020. Unicaja will head Group H, which includes MoraBanc Andorra so far for sure. Trento is ticketed for Group E with fellow Italian team Segafredo Virtus Bologna and Partizan NIS Belgrade already there.
Tuesday, December 17, 2019