Unicaja pleased its 9,500 fans in Malaga, Spain on Wednesday by adding the first win of its Euroleague season in Group C, 73-62 over visiting Ulker of Istanbul. Both teams now join a four-way tie in Group C, all with 1-2 records, to which a fifth team, either Benetton or Panathinaikos, will be added on Thursday. J.R. Bremer led the winners with 17 points. Fran Vazquez added 13 points off the bench, making 5 of 5 two-point shots. Pepe Sanchez added 11 points and a game-high 8 rebounds for Unicaja. Serkan Erdogan had 23 points on 7 of 8 two-pointers for Ulker, while Kerem Tunceri added 12 points for the guests. Unicaja did a great defensive job against Ulker's top guns, as Saulius Stombergas was held to 4 points on 2-for-9 shooting, while Dion Glover had just 7, making only 3 of 14 shots.
Gintaras Einikis opened the game with a pair of quick baskets for Unicaja, while drawing 2 fouls on dangerous Ulker big man Eurelijus Zukauskas, who went to the bench earlier than expected. Ulker struggled against Unicaja's man-to-man defense, while Bremer drilled a three, added a five-meter jumper and fed Stephane Risacher for a reverse layup to put the hosts ahead 15-4. Ulker tried to look for its big men near the basket, as Virginijus Praskevicius and Kerem Gonlum combined for 6 points in a 0-9 run capped by a Glover triple that brought the guests back to within 15-13. After a Unicaja timeout, Kerem Tunceri slashed to the basket to tie for Ulker, 15-15. Jorge Garbajosa came to the rescue for the home team with a five-meter jumper and Bremer added a layup in penetration for a 19-15 Unicaja lead after 10 minutes.
Unicaja struggled to score early in the second quarter, while Glover and Tunceri combined for 5 quick points to tie again, 20-20. Risacher, who was stopping Stombergas, was replaced by Walter Herrmann, who promptly drilled a three-pointer for Unicaja. Defenses were in charge now, but Ulker paid a price for its aggressiveness as Carlos Cabezas and Vazquez made 4 of 4 free throws to put Unicaja up 27-20. Erdogan stepped up with a layup, but Unicaja controlled the tempo, as Herrmann followed Berni Rodriguez's three-pointer with a layup for a 32-22 advantage after 16 minutes. Ulker called timeout, but Vazquez kept shining on both ends of the floor for Unicaja. He added a big dunk and a mid-range jumper to give his team a 36-24 lead. Erdogan and Tunceri came to the rescue for Ulker, scoring 6 points in a 2-8 final run which cut the difference to 38-32 at halftime. Ulker made just 1 of 13 threes in the first half.
Ulker improved its defense in the third quarter and Unicaja failed to score in the opening 2 minutes. But Ulker only added a three-pointer by Praskevicius to cut the lead to 38-35. Pepe Sanchez became Unicaja's go-to guy, scoring a big three and a layup in a 7-0 run as Unicaja extended its lead to 45-35. Tunceri hit a bomb from downtown, but the hosts, pushed by an incredible crowd, kept a safe lead throughout the quarter. Vazquez's jumper from the free throw line and Risacher's layup maintained a 51-40 margin after 26 minutes. Erdogan now gave the guests hope with a three-point play and a hit from beyond the arc for a 53-48 scoreboard. But Sanchez slashed for a tough basket and Vazquez added a layup and a breakaway dunk as Unicaja reestablished control at 60-50 after 30 minutes.
Stombergas scored his first basket early in the final period, while Tunceri and Erdogan scored off Unicaja turnovers to make it a six-point game at 62-56. Unicaja could not find the way to the basket and went scoreless for almost 4 minutes while Stombergas drilled a long two-pointer to bring Ulker within 62-58. It was do-or-die time for Unicaja, and Bremer stepped up with a big basket. The hosts came out of a timeout with a different defensive attitude. Einikis blocked Zukauskas's shot, and Unicaja hustled for every loose ball on both ends of the floor. Even with that, Unicaja committed 6 turnovers in 6 minutes, while Erdogan stayed on fire, scoring to make it 65-60. Rodriguez made a three-pointer to help Unicaja enter the final 2 minutes with a 69-60 margin. The guests failed to come back then, and Unicaja added its first win of the Euroleague season.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004