Roberts's late heroics lift Unicaja in Limoges
Unicaja Malaga took an important step towards qualifying for the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals by edging Limoges CSP 77-78 on the road on Wednesday. Unicaja improved to 3-1 in the standings and is second in Group G behind already-qualified Valencia Basket (4-0). Limoges dropped to 0-4 and was mathematically eliminated from playoffs contention. Brian Roberts led the winners with 20 points and Mathias Lessort added 14 for Unicaja. Jerry Boutsiele paced Limoges with 20 points, Dwight Hardy and Axel Bouteille each scored 11 and Jordan Taylor had 10 for the hosts. Limoges led 61-58 at the end of the third quarter and 73-72 with over a minute left. Roberts scored his team's last 8 points – 6 from the foul line, allowing the visitors to escape with a good-as-gold road win.
Unicaja opened the game with a 0-6 run, which Dragan Milosavljevic capped with a turnaround jumper. Boutsiele stepped up with a dunk and Bouteille added a jump hook, but Milosavljevic and Kyle Wiltjer answered to prompt Limoges to call timeout at 4-11. A driving layup by Taylor sparked a 10-0 run in which Boutsiele had 5 points to put Limoges in charge, 14-11. Unicaja found a go-to guy in Giorgi Shermadini, who had 7 points late in the first quarter to give the guests an 18-21 edge after 10 minutes. Back-to-back baskets by Bouteille put Limoges back ahead, 22-21, early in the second quarter. Jonathan Rousselle hit a triple, but Ryan Boatright did even better with a four-point play. Bouteille and Jaime Fernandez traded baskets, but Taylor and Hardy restored a 31-27 Limoges edge. Unicaja found a new go-to guy in Roberts and Lessort, which helped Unicaja tie it at 35-35. Lessort scored down low and a three-pointer by Roberts gave the visitors a 38-40 edge at halftime. Roberts and Damien Inglis exchanged jumpers after the break and a driving layup by Hardy tied it at 42-42. Hardy and Bouteille stepped up off a timeout to push Limoges to a 49-48 edge. Hardy scored again and a three-pointer by Rousselle caused Unicaja to call timeout at 54-50. Rousselle insisted from downtown and William Howard added free throws, but Lessort and Boatwright kept Unicaja within 61-58 after 30 minutes. Roberts struck from beyond the arc early in the fourth quarter, Dani Diez added a backdoor layup and Lessort scored in the low post to put Unicaja in charge, 63-65. Inglis downed a triple, Boutsiele downed a jumper and a layup by Howard gave Limoges a 70-67 lead with 3 minutes left. Wiltjer tied it with a bomb from downtown and Roberts erased Taylor's free throws with a floater, but Boutsiele restored a Limoges lead, 73-72, with 1:09 left. Roberts hit foul shots and a key steal by Sasu Salin allowed him to return to the line. Roberts delivered again and Unicaja fouled Taylor with 4.9 seconds left for a 75-76 score. Roberts drew another foul and calmly made free throws, but so did Taylor with 1.2 seconds remaining. However, it was too little, too late for Limoges, as Unicaja ran the game clock out after a timeout.
Brian Roberts was the game hero, but Unicaja could not have won the game without Mathias Lessort's physical presence in the paint. Lessort finished the game with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 7 fouls drawn, good for a game-high performance index rating of 26.
Limoges led 72-70 in the next-to-last minute, but Unicaja managed to put the basketball in safe hands. Brian Roberts stepped up with a critical basket and was ice cold from the foul line, hitting 6 free throws to make sure Unicaja returned to Malaga with a critical victory.
Unicaja pulled down 29 defensive rebounds - last season, it grabbed a season-high 32 defensive boards against Limoges. Unicaja was also deadly inside the arc, hitting 18 of 25 two-point shots. That 72.0% two-point shooting percentage made the difference in a very close and balanced showdown.
Did you notice?
Jerry Boutsiele finished the game with a career-high 20 points. He is the fourth Rising Star eligible player to reach the 20-point mark this season - after Vanja Marinkovic of Partizan NIS Belgrade (28 points), Martynas Echodas of Rytas Vilnius (23) and Tony Carr of Fiat Turin (20).
Limoges hosts Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on Tuesday. Unicaja takes on Valencia Basket the next day. Unicaja will qualify to the playoffs if it wins or if Limoges beats Zvezda.
Wednesday, January 23, 2019