Unicaja showed it is ready to battle hard to reach the Quarterfinal Playoffs by thrashing Benetton Treviso 75-61 in Malaga, Spain on Thursday, in the opening game for both teams in Top 16 Group G. Unicaja ties atop the Group G standings with a 1-0 record and hosts Aris TT Bank next week, while Benetton dropped to 0-1 and welcomes Dynamo Moscow next week. Carlos Jimenez led the winners with 14 points without missing a shot. Daniel Santiago added 13 while Berni Rodriguez had 12 for Unicaja. Marcus Goree had 24 points for Benetton while Marco Mordente added 11. Jimenez and Santiago fueled a 16-2 opening run for Unicaja, that extended its lead to 27-10 after 10 minutes and then again to 53-28 midway through the third period, enough to seal the outcome long before the final buzzer.
Jimenez needed just 20 seconds to bury a corner triple and but Goree answered with a six-meter jumper. Jimenez insisted from downtown and soon banked it a short shot in a 13-0 run that Carlos Cabezas highlighted with a stop-and-pop three-pointer. Benetton had already called timeout but Santiago shined with a jump hook for a 16-2 Unicaja lead. The guests missed 8 consecutive shots until Erazem Lorbek stepped up with a reverse layup. Rodriguez scored in penetration while Goree dunked it for a 18-6 Benetton deficit. Unicaja kept looking for Santiago in the paint, as he scored inside and followed Cabezas' free throws with a fast break dunk for a 18-point Unicaja margin, 24-6. Spencer Nelson shined with a driving layup but Welsch did better with a basket-plus-foul before Terrell Lyday fixed the score at 27-10 after 10 minutes.
Preston Shumpert scored in the low post early in the second quarter and even when Welsch stroke from downtown, he followed that with a floating layup to get Benetton within 30-14. Unicaja called timeout to fix its offense, as Benetton had improved their intensity in both ends now. Goree banked in a short jumper while Marcus Faison finally beat the guests' zone defense with a third-chance layup. Goree kept pacing Benetton with a put-back basket, as Unicaja kept struggling to score. Marko Tusek found answers with a corner three-pointer and Iñaki De Miguel added a power layup to make it a 19-point game, 37-18. Shumpert made free throws and Zisis added a driving layup to find his first basket. De Miguel and Lorbek traded easy baskets while Angelo Gigli fired in a three-pointer to give Benetton some hope, 39-26, at halftime.
Just like in the opening half, Jimenez was first to score with an easy layup and free throws. Benetton went scoreless for more than 3 minutes, while Santiago took over with a tip-in and Rodriguez capped a 9-0 opening run in this quarter with a corner triple, good for a 48-26 Unicaja lead. Gigli finally got Benetton going with a power layup, but Rodriguez buried another bomb from downtown and Cabezas added a fast break layup to make the guests call timeout at 53-28. Mordente stepped up with a floating jumper that Santiago matched with a dunk. Goree fired in consecutive triples but only brought Benetton within 55-36. Jimenez and Mordente exchanged free throws while Goree nailed another one from downtown to get his team within 57-41. Santiago got the crowd involved with a dunk-plus-foul to give Unicaja a 60-43 margin after three quarters.
Benetton needed a quick comeback to keep its chance alive, but Florent Pietrus had a big block on Zisis and Unicaja kept dominating the game now with a very effective zone defense. Goree flew high for a tip-in but Faison answered from downtown for a 63-45 Unicaja margin. Mordente hit a mid-range jumper but Pepe Sanzchez took over with a huge turnaround shot in the low post. The outcome was now clear and Benetton tried to reduce its deficit to avoid troubles in any tie-break situations with both teams involved. Free throws by Lyday and a triple by Mordente got Benetton within 67-53 with 5 minutes to go. Goree and Zisis brought the guests even closer, 70-59. Sanchez followed free throws with a big triple that allowed Unicaja to seal a big win in style.
Thursday, February 15, 2007