Unicaja rallied past Lietuvos Rytas 98-91
Unicaja came back from a 10-point deficit in the final 12 minutes to knock off Lietuvos Rytas 98-91 and pick up its first victory in Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 Group E. Nedzed Sinanovic scored all 15 of his points in that final stretch to go with 8 rebounds to lead seven Unicaja scorers in double figures. Uros Tripkovic also scored 15 points, while Robert Archibald had 13 points and Joel Freeland and Terrell McIntyre both added 12 points – Freeland with 8 rebounds and 4 assists as well. Georgios Printezis and Berni Rodriguez both chipped in 10 points for Unicaja, which improved to 1-2 in the group. Lietuvos dropped to 1-2 in the group despite 14 points and 8 assists by Khalid El-Amin. Simas Jasaitas added 13 points while Jonas Valanciunas, Brad Newley and Milko Bjelica all collected 10 points and Martynas Gecevicius had 11 points in a losing effort. The two teams will face off again in two weeks in Lithuania.
Neither team could score right away with El-Amin putting Rytas on the board with a long jumper 1:41 into the game. And Newley’s free throw made it 0-3. Unicaja finally found the basket on Freeland’s lay-in at the 7:35 mark. The hosts continued to struggle on offense and Newley nailed a three from the left corner and a foul allowed L. Rytas to retain possession. Bjelica hit a long three from the top of the key to put the lead to 2-11. And an offensive rebound and put-back by Newley gave L. Rytas its first 10-point advantage of the game midway through the first quarter. Saul Blanco stopped the bleeding for Unicaja, but two foul shots by Valanciunas pushed the margin to 11. The hosts did not panic and pounded the ball inside to Archibald, who had back-to-back baskets and then a three-point play to cut the gap to 12-18. Blanco and Tripkovic both knocked down triples and the Unicaja deficit was down to 18-20. But Gecevicius hit a three-pointer for L. Rytas and that would end up being the final score of the quarter with the guests leading 18-23.
Tripkovic continued his fine game with the first basket of the second frame and he stroked a three-ball to cut the gap to 2 points and Printezis’s lay-up evened the game at 25-25. A Cemal Nalga free throw put L. Rytas back ahead before Printezis’s driving lay-up gave Unicaja its first lead at 27-26. Nalga and Kenan Bajramovic sandwiched three-point plays around a driving layup by D.J. Strawberry as L. Rytas opened a 5-point cushion. Unicaja charged back with the next 7 points on 2 foul shots from Tripkovic, a three-pointer by Rodriguez and a Rod Blakney jumper for a 36-34 advantage. Printezis hit a tough layup to keep Unicaja up 40-39. But the guests did a great job finding their young big man Valanciunas, who converted a put-back, threw down an alley-oop and dunked down the lane for a 42-45 advantage. Printezis’s dunk had Unicaja within 1, but Bjelica hit a lay-in before missing the extra free throw, which was rebounded by Newley and put back in for a 44-49 cushion. And El-Amin nailed a three-pointer from the right wing just before the half-time buzzer for a 45-52 Lietuvos Rytas lead.
Unicaja got on the scoreboard first in the second half with a lay-in by Archibald to spark a 7-0 run to start the third quarter with Terrell McIntyre’s triple from the left wing knotting the game at 52-52 and forcing a L. Rytas timeout. El-Amin gave L. Rytas its first points with 2 foul shots at the 7:36 mark. The game was even again on Archibald’s offensive rebound and put-back for 54-54. Jasaitis, Gecevicius and Bjelica all hit three-pointers from the wing while Archibald and Freeland combined for just 3 of 6 free throws before El-Amin’s jumper gave L. Rytas a 57-65 lead and forced Unicja coach Chus Mateo to take a time-out. Newley’s two foul shots pushed the margin back to 10. Sinanovic answered with a dunk and hit 2 free throws to bring Unicaja to within 62-68. But a Nalga layup had L. Rytas leading after three quarters 62-70.
Unicaja opened the fourth quarter with the first 4 points – on a Tripkovic jumper and 2 Sinanovic foul shots – for a 66-70 deficit. The hosts decided once again to dump the ball into the paint and Sinanovic sandwiched an offensive rebound put-back and a dunk and three-point play around an inside basket by Freeland to knot the game at 73-73. L. Rytas got a bit lucky then with a long three-ball by Bjelica banking off the glass and in for a 73-76 advantage. Sinanovic continued his outstanding second half with 2 more free throws and a lay-in off a Freeland assist to put Unicaja ahead. And then McIntyre nailed a pull-up three from the right wing for an 80-76 cushion half-way through the fourth. Rodriguez dropped a three-ball and Freeland banged down low with Valanciunas for a lay-up as Unicaja led 85-80. Jasaitis answered with a three-pointer and another three-ball later would keep L. Rytas within 90-88. Lietuvos Rytas forced a shot-clock violation, but then Gecevicius missed a three and watched as McIntyre drained a long ball at the other end for a 93-88 Unicaja lead with 42 seconds left. Two Rodriguez foul shots pushed the gap to 95-88, but El-Amin would not go down without a fight, nailing a three with 17 seconds for a 95-91 deficit. McIntyre made 1 of 2 free throws – snapping his 12-straight foul shot streak – and El-Amin turned over the ball with 10 seconds left to ice the game for Unicaja.
Thursday, February 3, 2011