Unicaja uses big men to blast past Rytas
Unicaja Malaga blasted past Rytas Vlinius with a 95-76 victory to improve to 5-1 at the top of Group D. Rytas, which was ahead by double figures in the second quarter, drops to 3-3. The third quarter proved decisive with Unicaja enjoying the better of a 28-7 partial score, and the visiting team couldn’t respond. The big men did much of the damage, with the unstoppable Giorgi Shermadini scoring 23 points while Mathias Lessort added 18 and Kyle Wiltjer scored 12. Rytas was led by 15 points from DJ Seeley, while Eimantas Bendzius scored 11 and Mindaugas Girdziunas added 10.
Unicaja raced into an early 5-0 lead, but a 2-13 run featuring two three-pointers from Seeley sent Rytas ahead. Girdziunas hit his second triple and then Dominique Sutton also struck from deep to keep the visitors in front, despite a couple of dunks from Lessort. But Unicaja kept pushing and Lessort scored again to tie the game at 21-21 after the first quarter. Rytas surged clear again as Seeley sank his third triple, and a 0-10 spurt containing a wild three-pointer by Bendzius made it a 12-point game. Shermadini scored twice and Wiltjer struck from deep twice as the home team responded with its own 8-0 run, and it was 43-48 at half-time. Unicaja started the second half with triples from Sasu Salin and Jaime Fernandez to go ahead, and Lessort scored two highlight reel dunks on a 13-0 run for a 56-48 lead. A triple from Fernandez gave Unicaja a double-digit lead, which soon grew with another Shermadini score. The fourth quarter saw the home team keep pulling away, with a three-pointer from Brian Roberts extending the lead to 86-59, and a huge alley-oop by Lessort was the highlight of the latter stages.
Unicaja sets assists record
Unicaja’s team-based approach was reflected in a total of 31 assists – a new team record in EuroCup and the joint fifth-highest in competition history. Jaime Fernandez led the way with 8 assists, but six other players provided at least three each.
Young gun Sanchez makes debut
With such a strong lead under his belt, Unicaja coach Luis Casimiro was able to finish the game by giving some playing time to debutant Pablo Sanchez. At the age of just 16 years and 20 days, he became the third-youngest player in EuroCup history, behind only Stefan Petkovic and Linos Chrysikopoulos.
Defense sets the tone
A big change in the game was the added intensity to Unicaja’s defense, which allowed just 7 points in the third quarter after being burned for 48 in the opening half. One stat to emphasise the turnaround was that Rytas made 6 of its first 9 three-pointers, but only went 4-of-13 from beyond the arc the rest of the way.
Unicaja will take its 5-1 record to Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt, and Rytas returns to Vilnius to welcome high-flying UNICS Kazan.
Wednesday, November 7, 2018