One might thought Unicaja had an easy time beating Buducnost at home by 87-75 on Wednesday at home, but nothing was farther from reality. The hosts didn't pull away until the final minutes of the game thanks, once again, to a great Louis Bullock. Buducnost started the game strong and put Unicaja against the wall, but poor percentages from the three-point line doomed the Yugoslavs, as Unicaja changed to zone defense to exploit that flaw in the game of the guests. The win improves Unicaja's record to 5-4 in Group B, while Buducnost drops to 2-7 tied with Zalgiris Kaunas for last place. Milan Gurovic led the winners with 20 points, Ademola Okulaja added 19 and Bullock contributed 14, including 3 consecutive baskets that helped Unicaja seal the outcome. Chuck Kornegay also had 12 points for the winners. For Bududcnost, John Brown led the way with 19 points, Zarko Cabarkapa bagged 16 and Aleksandar Pavlovic contributed 13.
It took the teams a while to warm-up, as after 3 minutes the score was 2-3. Too fast plays an unforced errors were the main reasons for the situation, but Zarko Cabarkapa already gave signs of life with 3 of the first 5 points of his team, 2-5. Another 2-7 run by Buducnost for 4-12 sealed with a three by Ivan Koljevic, forced the first timeout called by Bozidar Maljkovic. Buducnost moved tha ball fast in offense looking always for its backcourt, while the hosts were out of ideas both in offense and in defense. Ademola Okulaja scored the first 6 points of his team, but Cabarkapa was virtually unstoppable in the paint. Youngster Fran Vazquez stepped on court to score right away, due to the absence of injured Frederic Weis. On the other side though, Buducnost played as a team to rally for 10-18, but things settled down a little for Unicaja with a 6-2 quick burst. Buducnost's defense had become weaker, but the talent displayed on offense by its young players left the Yugoslav runners-up 5 points ahead after 10 minutes, 19-24.
The first steps of the second quarter resembled those of the first, as both teams found it hard to score, and after 3 minutes and a half the score was 22-26, until Milan Gurovic broke the spell with a penetration through the Yugoslav defense. The presence of Mous Sonko for the hosts, changed the tempo of the game as Unicaja started defending better at the same time as Buducnost didn't find easy options in the offensive end. Unicaja approached at 26-27 and the fans at the Martin Carpena arena burst into cheers when Louis Bullock hit his second three for 29-27. Cabarkapa scored his 10th point to tie the game at 31-31 and the presence of Slavko Vranes in the paint was somewhat intimidating for the players of Unicaja. Gurovic scored again from downtown for his 14th point to be the main referent of his team. Vranes was called his third foul only 2 minutes after stepping on court and the two free throws by Chuck Kornegay sealed a 8-0 run for the maximum lead of the hosts, 40-33. A monster dunk by Aleksandar Pavlovic pulled Buducnost within 40-37, for the teams to hit the lockerrooms.
John Brown was the name of the first minutes of the second half by scoring the first 5 points of his team, and Unicaja was back to the situation of the start of the first quarter, cold and without ideas. Buducnost was superior with the one-on-one and jumped to 41-45. Maljkovic changed all the players of the backcourt, and Sonko was back to the floor to inject his intensity, and the hosts quickly ran to 46-47. Carlos Cabezas and Stephane Risacher also helped Unicaja in defense while Brown was becoming the best man for the guests. Cabarkapa tied the game at 49-49 with his individual superiority in the one-on-one, and Ivan Koljevic hit from the arc for a second straight tie, 52-52. The game entered a scoring phase, and Unicaja stayed in the game thanks to its efficiency from the three-point line with a 7 of 11 threes at that point, while Buducnost was shooting a 4-for-14. Both teams changed to zone defense at the same time, but Okulaja nailed it from downtown again for 60-55 at the end of the third quarter.
In the last period, Buducnost was forced to shoot from the long range, but the percentages were decreasing as minutes went by for the guests. And that was the rhythm of game that Unicaja was looking for. The first basket by Cabezas for 64-57 settled things for the key moment of the game. Brown scored 4 straight points for the guests, confirming his status of key player, but Unicaja scored in the fastbreak after good defenses and forged the first double-digit leads of the night, 72-61. But when it looked like Unicaja would break the game open, Buducnost stroke back with a 0-7 run after a 3-point play by Aleksandar Smiljanic for 72-68 that gave life back to the game. And then was Bullock time, as the guard hit 6 points in a row for 79-70. A dunk by Okulaja after a steal for 81-70 and 1 minute to go, broke the game open.
Wednesday, December 18, 2002