Unicaja stays alive in the Top 16 race in Group C by beating Pau-Orthez 80-71 at home in Malaga, Spain on Wednesday night. Unicaja improved to 4-7 in the standings and ties with Tau Ceramica and the Opel Skyliners for the crucial fifth spot on the Group C board. Meanwhile, Pau-Orthez dropped to 3-8 and is last in the Group C standings. Unicaja used a 10-0 final run to seal the win right when the going got tough, as free throws by Mire Chatman had given Pau a 70-71 edge with 3 minutes to go. Jorge Garbajosa was the man of the game, leading the winners with 25 points on 10 of 10 free throws and adding 10 rebounds for a double-double. J.R. Bremer added 10 for Unicaja, who had playmaker Pepe Sanchez and big man Zan Tabak back in its lineup. Chatman led Pau with 15 points and 6 assists. Thierry Rupert added 14 points, Julius Nwosu 12 and T.J. Lux 10 for the guests.
Herrmann opened fire with an easy layup, but Drozdov followed Foirest's three with a power drive for a 4-5 Pau lead. The guests played physical defense, especially near the basket, as Rupert had a big block on Herrmann while Nwosu added a basket-plus-foul to give Pau a 8-10 edge midway through the first. Garbajosa came to the rescue for Unicaja, following a layup with a three-pointer of his own, while Bremer added a basket to give the hosts a 15-12 lead. Nwosu scored twice around the basket to bring Pau within 17-16, but Bremer fired in a big three-pointer and added a free throw in the following play to make it a five-point game at 21-16. Rupert and Cabezas exchanged free throws, but a final basket by T.J. Lux brought the guests within 23-20 after 10 minutes.
Lux's put-back and Thierry Gadou's smooth layup coming off the baseline gave Pau a 23-24 lead early in the second quarter. Unicaja struggled now at both ends. Cabezas tried to wake Unicaja up with a layup off a steal to which Davor Marcelic answered with a big three from the top of the key for a 25-27 Pau margin. Unicaja needed a go-to guy and Garbajosa took over with 4 unanswered points. Chatman drew a foul and drilled free throws for Pau, while Drozdov provided some showtime with back-to-back dunks to cap a 0-6 run with a 29-33 Pau lead. After a Unicaja timeout, Stephane Risacher found Berni Rodriguez for a left-handed reverse layup while Pepe Sanchez found space for back-to-back layups and a new home lead, 35-33. Chatman drove forhis first basket, and Marcelic fired another three, but free throws by a Zan Tabak, his first points of the season after a long injury, retained a 39-38 margin at halftime for Unicaja.
Both teams went scoreless for almost 2 minutes until Rooks stepped up with a four-meter jumper, which Chatman immediately matched with a layup in the other end. A put-back basket by Rooks, followed by a one-handed drive by Herrmann and a layup in penetration by Garbajosa pushed Unicaja to a 49-43 margin midway through the third. Chatman tried to get Pau back on track with a layup, but received an outstanding block by Garbajosa in the following play. Even with that, Lux scored in the paint and Drozdov added a basket-plus-free throw to bring the guests within 51-50. Rupert took over with back-to-back baskets soon after that as Pau regained the lead, 53-54. Free throws by Garbajosa and a final basket by Rupert left Pau with a 56-57 edge after 30 minutes.
Unicaja improved its defense early in the fourth, while Risacher fired in a three-pointer for a 58-56 edge. Chatman stepped up with a five-meter jumper, and Rupert added a long two-pointer as Pau regained a 59-60 edge. Lux drilled free throws and a layup to make it 61-64 score, but Garbajosa was now on fire. He fed Risacher for a corner three and slashed to the basket for a new Unicaja lead, 66-64. After a Pau timeout, Rupert popped a four-meter jumper and Chatman added a triple to bring the guests within 70-69 with 3 minutes to go. Pau played now with two playmakers - Chatman and Fred Fauthoux - giving Chatman some room to create his shots. He drew a foul and drilled the free throws for a 70-71 Pau edge, but Sanchez answered with a key three-pointer while Bremer followed it with a stop-and-pop jumper to boost Unicaja to a 75-71 margin already in the final minute. Pau failed to score before the final buzzer, and Florent Pietrus sealed the win with a reverse dunk, as Unicaja stays alive in the Top 16 race.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005