Unicaja seals Top 16 qualification in Podgorica
Unicaja Malaga confirmed the first 7DAYS Eurocup Top 16 berth from Group B with a convincing 66-90 road win over Buducnost VOLI on Wednesday. The visitors took charge from the very beginning and never looked back. They finished the first period with a solid 10-23 advantage, and when the hosts got within 39-45 right after halftime, a 2-16 run led by Francis Alonso and Deon Thompson boosted Unicaja's lead to 41-61 to put the game on ice. Unicaja, which improves to 6-2 atop Group B, had four players score in double figures. Alonso, Thompson and Dario Brizuela tallied 15 each, followed by Axel Bouteille with 10. Nikola Ivanovic posted 20 points and 4 assists for Buducnost, while Melvin Ejim contributed 12 points and 6 rebounds against his former teammates. Buducnost's record dropped to 3-3.
Unicaja had a strong start pushed by Diaz and Thompson, who combined to give the visitors an early 6-11 lead. Soon, Volodymyr Gerun followed by banking a couple of shots to make it 6-16. Buducnost remained scoreless for 3 minutes until Dragan Apic was fed for a strong dunk, but Unicaja allowed no more than another basket and a couple of free throws from Ivanovic to reach the end of the first quarter with a comfortable 12-23 lead. Brizuela and Tim Abromaitis made that gap bigger, 14-27, early in the second quarter, but Ivanovic and Sehovic scored 3 points each to keep Buducnost within 20-29. Jaime Fernandez and Alonso replied from long range, and even though Ivanovic capped a 6-0 Buducnost run from deep, 5 five points in a row from Alonso steadied Unicaja calm at 30-41. Cobbs took over for the hosts with 5 consecutive points to get them as close as 37-45 at halftime. Cobbs remained hot after the break, but Unicaja found a timely answer from outside through Alonso and Thompson. Back-to-back triples from each sparked a 0-13 run to a huge 41-61 advantage for the visitors midway through the third quarter. Ivanovic ended the drought from downtown, but no one else joined to help Buducnost react. Baskets were few and far between from then until the third quarter ended 49-67. Ejim tried to wake his team up but Brizuela and Adam Waczynski continued to punish the hosts from outside, as another bomb by the latter raised the difference to 51-74 with still 7 minutes to play. Bouteille made it 62-82 with back-to-back threes not long after, thus confirming Unicaja's ticket for the Top16.
After setting a club record by hitting 64% of its three-point shots against Mornar the previous week, Unicaja displayed a great shooting performance once again. It went 12-for-26 from behind the arc (46.2%) with six different players contributing triples.
Even though the visitors never trailed and built an early double-digit lead, Buducnost didn't surrender and, pushed by Justin Cobbs, managed to come within 39-45 right after halftime. A three-pointer by Francis Alonso at that moment sparked a 2-16 run in which Alonso provided another trey and Thompson two more of his own, killing all hopes on the home side.
Did you know?
Unicaja remains unbeaten against Buducnost, as it dominates their head-to-head record with a perfect 6-0, including the two games they played this season.
Buducnost must turn around in 28 hours to play a Round 6 makeup game on the road against Germani Brescia. Unicaja does not return to action until Wednesday, December 8, with a Round 9 road game, also in Brescia.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020