UNICS downs Unicaja to take first place in Group D
UNICS Kazan clinched first place in Group D of the 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season by downing Unicaja Malaga 87-84 at Basket Hall Kazan on Wednesday. UNICS improved to 8-1 in the standings to clinch first place and Unicaja dropped to 7-2 and will be second regardless of other results. Errick McCollum led the winners with 21 points, Pierria Henry added 19, Jamar Smith had 14 and Maurice Ndour and Jackie Carmichael each had 10 for UNICS. Giorgi Shermadini paced Unicaja with 22 points and Jaime Fernandez and Kyle Wiltjer scored 11 each for the visitors.
Evgeny Koleshnikov struck from downtown and Trent Lockett dunked to give UNICS an early 5-0 lead. Fernandez and Mathias Lessort fueled a 0-7 run to put Unicaja in charge for the first time, 5-7. Wiltjer sank a triple in transition and followed Lessort's layup with another one from beyond the arc to boost the lead to 9-15. Henry and Ndour stepped up for UNICS, but Shermadini kept Unicaja ahead, 18-20, after 10 minutes. A layup by Shermadini and a jumper by Fernandez made it a 6-point game early in the second quarter. Smith and McCollum each struck from downtown in an 8-0 run as UNICS regained the lead, 26-24. Dani Diez rescued Unicaja with consecutive triples and Brian Roberts added another one for a 30-35 lead. Adam Waczynski and McCollum exchanged three-pointers and a driving layup by Roberts prompted UNICS to call timeout at 35-40. McCollum hit his third bomb from downtown, but layups by Lessort and Dragan Milosavljevic gave Unicaja a 38-44 margin at halftime. Carmichael and Smith took over after the break to bring UNICS within 45-47. Shermadini and Fernandez stepped up for the visitors to give Unicaja fresh air at 52-58. McCollum hit a jumper and Henry followed free throws with a triple to make it 59-60. Henry insisted from downtown and a layup by Carmichael completed the hosts' comeback at 64-62. Free throws by Alberto Diaz tied it at 64-64 after 30 minutes. A jumper by Waczynski and a three-pointer by Fernandez allowed Unicaja to regain the lead, 68-69, early in the fourth quarter. Ndour, McCollum and Henry stayed perfect from the foul line and a dunk by Carmichael helped UNICS get a 7-point lead with less than four minutes left. Shermadini and Wiltjer turned the game into a thriller, 82-79, with 1:05 left. Smith sealed the outcome with a big triple, 85-79, with 42 seconds left and Unicaja did not recover.
Henry did a little bit of everything for UNICS, finishing the game with 19 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists 3 steals and 7 fouls drawn for a performance index rating of 34 - a new career high. Henry scored 14 of his 19 points in the final 13 minutes and had half of his 8 assists in the fourth quarter.
Unicaja found a way to get back in the game with a minute left, 82-79, but Shermadini missed a free throw and UNICS finished a long, patient offense in the best way possible - McCollum found a wide-open Smith, who hit a three-point shot that sealed the outcome against his former team.
Unicaja hit 7 of 14 three-point shots (50%) in the first half, but just 3 of 12 (25%) after the break. The visitors also committed 14 turnovers, while UNICS only had 9.
Did you notice?
Unicaja is second in Group D and will face the first-ranked team in Group C - Valencia Basket. It is a rematch of the 2017 EuroCup Finals, which Unicaja won 1-2 to claim its first continental title in over 15 years.
In Round 10
Both teams finish the regular season on Wednesday, December 19. UNICS visits Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt and Unicaja hosts already-eliminated and winless Fiat Turin.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018