Valencia downs Unicaja in 2017 Finals rematch
In a rematch of the 2017 7DAYS EuroCup Finals, Valencia Basket triumphed over Unicaja Malaga 85-74 at home on Wednesday. Valencia remained undefeated at home in the EuroCup this season. Matt Thomas and Will Thomas paced the winners with 18 points apiece, Alberto Abalde added 14 and Bojan Dubljevic had 10 for Valencia. Jaime Fernandez paced Unicaja with 13 points, Brian Roberts and Mathias Lessort each scored 12 and Sasu Salin had 11 for the visitors. Lessort also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
It took Kyle Wiltjer 3 seconds to score around the basket, which Lessort followed with a driving layup for a 0-4 Unicaja lead. Dubljevic stepped up for Valencia and a three-pointer by Aaron Doornekamp gave the hosts their first lead, 7-6. Dubljevic and Doornekamp kept pushing Valencia and Sam Van Rossom struck from downtown for a 14-8 lead. Fernandez took over with a three-point play that Matt Thomas erased with a triple. Matt Thomas hit a jumper and a buzzer-beating put-back layup by Mike Tobey boosted the hosts' lead to 22-13 after 10 minutes. A dunk by Abalde made it a double-digit game, 24-13, early in the second quarter. Alberto Diaz and Tobey traded triples and a tip-in by Louis Labeyrie gave Valencia a 29-16 margin. Salin and Lessort tried to change things for Unicaja and a three-pointer by Dani Diez brought the visitors within 32-28. Dubljevic and Will Thomas rescued Valencia and an outstanding Matt Thomas restored a 45-38 Valencia edge at halftime. Salin fired in one from beyond the arc after the break and followed Wiltjer's three-point play with another bomb from downtown that tied it at 47-47. Matt Thomas sank his fourth triple, igniting a 9-0 run highlighted by Will Thomas's dunk. Roberts and Giorgi Shermadini hit free throws, but Will Thomas stayed unstoppable and a three-pointer by Tobey broke the game open at 66-50. Salin, Lessort and Diez brought Unicaja within 66-58 after 30 minutes. Lessort took over with a three-point play and free throws by Fernandez capped a 0-13 run that brought Unicaja within 66-63. Abalde and Matt Thomas made free throws and a jump hook by Will Thomas boosted Valencia's lead to 72-63 with 7 minutes left. Unicaja struggled to score when it mattered most and a tip-in by Abalde allowed Valencia to seal the outcome in style.
Will Thomas provided the intensity, experience and resilience needed to beat his former team. He finished the game with 18 points on 8 of 13 two-point shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 4 fouls drawn for a PIR of 23.
Unicaja tied the game at 47-47 early in the second half. Will Thomas and Alberto Abalde combined for 11 points in a mammoth 19-3 run, which Mike Tobey capped with a three-pointer, giving Valencia a 66-50 lead. Unicaja got closer, but expended all of its energy too early.
Valencia outrebounded Unicaja 45-37, including 20 offensive boards. Its best mark before this game was 13 offensive rebounds against Partizan NIS Belgrade. Valencia also took excellent care of the ball, finishing the game with 20 assists and just 7 turnovers. Unicaja had 14 assists and 14 turnovers.
Did you notice?
Valencia won its sixth consecutive home game in EuroCup action. It won 15 of its last 16 showdowns at Pabellon Fuente de San Luis. Its only EuroCup home loss since October 16 came in Game 3 of the 2017 EuroCup Finals against Unicaja.
Both teams return to 7DAYS EuroCup action next week. Unicaja hosts Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on Tuesday as Lessort faces his former team for the first time. On Wednesday, Valencia visits Limoges CSP.
Wednesday, January 2, 2019