Carlos Cabezas's basket with 2.5 seconds remaining broke a tie and lifted Unicaja to the top spot in Group B by edging Lietuvos Rytas 71-69 in Malaga, Spain, on Wednesday night. Unicaja improved to 5-1, with L. Rytas right behind at 4-2. Jiri Welsch paced the winners with 14 points, while Cabezas, Daniel Santiago and Berni Rodriguez each added 11 for Unicaja. Chuck Eidson led L. Rytas with a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds. Hollis Price added 16 points for L. Rytas, which trailed 65-54 midway through the fourth quarter. Eidson stepped up with 7 points during a 0-9 run, including a big jumper that tied the game at 69-69 with 8.6 seconds to go. Cabezas scored after a Unicaja timeout and it all came down to the final play. L. Rytas called timeout and managed to find Matt Nielsen beyond the three-point line, but his off-balanced shot touch the board, the rim and fell out.
Marijonas Petravicius got Unicaja going with a jump hook, as L. Rytas held Unicaja scoreless for almost two minutes until Welsch buried a corner three-pointer. L. Rytas tried to slow down the tempo in the early going, as Petravicius finished a long offense with a smooth reverse layup before heading to the bench with 2 quick fouls. Unicaja committed a 24-second violation and Eidson followed a power layup with a mid-range jumper for a 4-8 L. Rytas lead. Welsch fed Santiago for a power dunk and L. Rytas faced more trouble when Nielsen picked up his third foul. Price fired one in from downtown, as the guests kept their momentum going on defense. Meanwhile, Eidson provided a highlight with a power dunk, good for a 7-13 L. Rytas lead. Carlos Jimenez tried to change things with 4 free throws, which Kenan Bajramovic matched with a five-meter jumper and a layup. Unicaja kept going to the foul line often without much success, but a fast-break layup by Cabezas got the hosts within 14-17. Bajramovic made foul shots, but Rodriguez answered from downtown and Cabezas added free throws to help Unicaja regain the lead, 19-18, after 10 minutes.
Rodriguez fired in his second three-pointer in as many minutes , but Eidson made free throws to keep L. Rytas close, 22-20. Unicaja was using many scoring options, as Davor Kus made free throws and Welsch hit a jumper coming off a screen, but a running shot by Price and more foul shots by Eidson kept the guests within 26-24. L. Rytas controlled the defensive boards, but Unicaja kept finding easy shots. Kus buried a triple and fed Santiago for a monster dunk to set the crowd on fire. Arturas Jomantas scored off a midcourt steal and Price hit foul shots to keep L. Rytas in the game. Santiago paced Unicaja with a put-back dunk, but Bajramovic fired in a big triple. Unicaja did not manage to improve its defense, but Santiago was dominating at the other end. Price buried a jumper that saw Unicaja call timeout at 35-33. Jomantas tied the game from the foul line but once again Santiago put Unicaja ahead. Jomantas shined with a huge turnaround jumper, but Jimenez bettered it with an outstanding layup-plus-foul that allowed Unicaja to keep a 40-37 edge at halftime.
The game turned into a physical battle early in the third quarter and Unicaja made the most of it, as Rodriguez shined with a three-point play. Nielsen stepped up with an easy basket and Jomantas added free throws to keep L. Rytas in the game, 43-41. A technical foul on Jimenez allowed Price to tie the game at 43-43. Unicaja got back in track, as Cabezas fed Welsch for a fast break layup. L. Rytas stayed loyal to its game plan, with strong defense and a balanced offense getting everyone involved. A foul shot by Eidson and a fast-break layup off a steal by Price completed the guests' comeback, 45-48. Cabezas tried to change things with a fast-break basket, as the game was arguably one of the most intense in the competition this season. Rodriguez found Boniface Ndong for a layup-plus-foul as Unicaja regained the lead, 50-48. Mindaugas Lukauskis answered from downtown, but a driving layup by Welsch provided another lead change, 52-51. Welsch drilled a running triple that gave the hosts a 55-51 edge after three quarters.
Unicaja improved its defensive intensity right at the start of the fourth quarter. Ndong provided a highlight with a put-back dunk and another steal allowed Rodriguez to race downcourt and give Unicaja a 59-51. L. Rytas called timeout, but Unicaja kept shining on defense. The guests simply could not find the way to the basket, while Bojan Popovic capped a 12-0 run with a big triple. Price tried to ignite the visitors' comeback with a three-pointer, but Popovic beat the shot clock with another shot from downtown, good for a 65-54 lead. Petravicius scored in a quick transition and Eidson followed a mid-range jumper with a triple to get L. Rytas back in the game at 65-61. Unicaja struggled against the guests' matchup zone defense until Welsch made a free throw and Cabezas buried a critical three-pointer that boosted the hosts' lead to 69-61 with three minutes to go. Nielsen took over with a dunk-plus-foul off a L. Rytas timeout and Lukauskis added a free throw to give the guests hope. Lukauskis dunked it off a steal to get within 2 with 54.3 seconds remaining. Welsch missed a three-point shot while Eidson hit a key jumper to tie the game at 69-69 with 8.6 seconds to go. Unicaja called timeout and Cabezas delivered with a driving basket, good for a 71-69 Unicaja lead with 2.5 seconds left. It all came down to the final play, as Nielsen fired a three-point shot that touched the glass and rimmed out, allowing the Unicaja fans to celebrate their team taking the Group B lead.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007