Cibona survived a huge comeback on Thursday to defeat visiting Unicaja by 87-83 after overtime in Group B. Cibona led by 20 points, 67-47, in minute 27, but Unicaja rallied with a 5-20 fourth-quarter run that sent the game to OT. There, Jerry McCullough scored 9 straight points to seal the victory and boost Cibona's record to 2-1 while Unicaja dropped to 0-3. Unicaja has lost twice in overtime and the third game at home on a buzzer-beater. Davor Kus led Cibona scorers with 20 points. McCullough added 19 and Brent Wright 16. For Unicaja, Berni Rodriguez had 20 points, Florent Pietrus and Carlos Jimenez posted 18 apiece, while Jiri Welsch added 15.
Kus opened the game with a jumper for Cibona, but the effort of Jimenez and an unsportsmanlike foul called on Kus helped Unicaja to pull away by 7-12 after Rodriguez's three-pointer. Consecutive bombs by Kus and Goran Vrbanc tied for Cibona, 13-13. Kus kept dominating for Cibona, while Jimenez and Rodriguez did so for Unicaja, even though the visitors tried to look inside for Daniel Santiago repeatedly. Wright added inside to Cibona's 4-for-4 shooting from the arc to keep the hosts in front by 27-24 after 10 minutes.
Unicaja youngster Michal Chilinksi opened the second quarter with a triple to tie the score, but Wright was still strong underneath and Levour Warren joined him with an aggressive penetration to lift Cibona up by 33-27. Rodriguez made a three-point play for Unicaja, whose defense tightened noticeably now. However, the reserves of Unicaja were not too accurate in offense, and Barisa Krasic's put-back of an offensive rebound made it 40-33, forcing visiting coach Sergio Scariolo to call timeout. After that, Jiri Welsch scored for the guests, but Unicaja's zone defense gave up back-to-back triples for Krasic, lifting the difference to 48-39. There was only time for one more jumper by Pepe Sanchez of Unicaja, who sent the game to the break with Cibona up 48-41.
Wright sent Cibona higher with the second half's first points, and even though Welsch replied with a three-pointer, Cibona played fast and smart as McCullough converted a three-point to make it 53-45. Unicaja went cold for several minutes and Cibona pulled away slow but steady. Kus and Warren lifted the hosts to a 16-point lead, 61-45 after 27 minutes. Cibona dominated at ease, as Unicaja struggled in both ends of the court, and Wright reached the 14 points to close the third period with a 69-54 Cibona edge.
Jimenez came to the rescue for Unicaja with a triple to start the fourth quarter. Pietrus and Jimenez again cut the deficit, to 69-61, as the hosts struggled offensively now. Welsch punished Cibona a little more with free throws as the Unicaja run escalated to 0-10. McCullough stopped his team's scoring drought after 4 minutes, 40 seconds with an agonizing layup, but Unijaca stood strong as Rodriguez and Pietrus made it a three-point game, 71-68. Kus found a way for the layup to give Cibona some air. Nervousness set in as Sanchez, McCullough and Welsch hit only 1 of 2 free throws each as the score stood at 74-70 going into the last minute. That's when, Pietrus was providential, making a tip-in with 50 seconds left. Kus missed a layup and then Wright fouled Rodriguez, who hit both from the line to tie it up, 74-74, with 42 seconds left. Turnovers by McCullough and Rodriguez sent the game to the extra session after a 5-20 Unicaja run in the fourth quarter.
Jimenez scored to open overtime, too, as Unicaja jumped ahead for the first time since the first quarter, but McCullough tied fast, 76-76. Sanchez also found the bottom of the net with 2:45 left, but 2 free throws by McCullough cooled off Unicaja. Both teams were really tired and that showed when Welsch only hit 1 of 2 from the line to make it 78-79. McCullough was there again for his team with a three-point play, while Rodriguez turned the ball over driving in the last minute. Cibona lost the ball, too, but Welsch missed a three, allowing McCullough to find the clinching layup at 83-79 with 24 seconds to play. Pietrus slammed the ball, but Kus and Wright were sure enough from the foul line for Cibona to walk away overtime winners at 87-83.
Thursday, November 9, 2006