CSKA downs Unicaja, clinches first place
CSKA Moscow finished the 2015-16 Turkish Airlines Euroleague regular season in style by downing Unicaja Malaga 76-88 on the road on Friday. CSKA was first in its group with a 9-1 record and Unicaja second at 7-3. Nando De Colo led the winners with 18 points and 7 assists. Joel Freeland and Nikita Kurbanov each had 10 points for CSKA. Edwin Jackson led Unicaja with 15 points, Will Thomas added 14, Mindaugas Kuzminskas 13 and Fran Vazquez and Nemanja Nedovic each scored 10 for the hosts. Kyle Hines shined early with a couple of three-point plays to give CSKA an 11-13 lead. Jackson, Kuzminskas and Nedovic stepped up to give Unicaja a 24-20 lead after 10 minutes. A three-pointer by Nedovic soon boosted the hosts' lead to 33-24. Hines, Andrey Vorontsevich and a buzzer-beating triple by Dmitry Kulagin brought CSKA a bit closer, 46-42, at halftime. CSKA improved its defense after the break, as Vitaly Fridzon and Cory Higgins each struck twice from downtown. They got help from Freeland to give the guests a 57-65 margin after 30 minutes. Kurbanov had all of his points in the fourth quarter and a three-point play by De Colo sealed the outcome, 70-83, long before the final buzzer.
First quarter: Great offense puts Unicaja ahead
Richard Hendrix got Unicaja going with a jump hook, but a six-meter jumper by Cory Higgins and a three-point play by Kyle Hines gave CSKA a 2-5 lead. Dani Diez hit a three-pointer from the left wing, De Colo answered with a driving layup and free throws by Jackson tied it at 7-7. Jackson kept pacing Unicaja with a driving basket, which Vitaly Fridzon bettered with a bomb from downtown. Thomas ignited the crowd with a fast break slam, but Hines did even better with his second layup-plus-foul, good for an 11-13 CSKA lead. Jackson nailed a triple off a screen. Higgins answered with a driving layup, but Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Andrey Vorontsevich joined the three-point shootout for a 17-18 score. Nedovic took over with a wild driving basket, which Kuzminskas followed with a second-chance layup for a 21-18 Unicaja lead. Joel Freeland made free throws and a three-pointer by Nedovic boosted the hosts' lead to 24-20 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Thomas, Kuzminskas keep hosts ahead
De Colo beat the shot clock with a baseline jumper early in the quarter. Fran Vazquez picked up a loose ball and took over with a put-back slam, which he followed with free throws for a 28-22 Unicaja lead. Vazquez kept pushing the hosts with a put-back layup. Freeland banked in an off-balance shot, but a three-pointer by Nedovic boosted Unicaja's lead to 33-24. Milos Teodosic shined with a driving layup, which Nedovic followed with a wild step-back jumper. De Colo finished a great two-on-two play with a corner three-pointer, but Hendrix found Kuzminskas for a backdoor layup that ignited the crowd at 37-29. Hines took over with a put-back basket, which Vorontsevich followed with an off-balance layup. Kuzminskas scored on a tip-in, but Vorontsevich bettered him with a triple. Thomas hit back-to-back jumpers in the paint to give Unicaja fresh air at 43-37. Teodosic scored in penetration, but Jackson did better with a step-back three-pointer. Dimitry Kulagin answered from downtown to fix the halftime score at 46-42.
Third quarter: Three-pointers put CSKA in charge
Vazquez made free throws soon after the break. Hines split attempts and a three-pointer by Fridzon brought CSKA within 2. Unicaja kept struggling to score and an off-balance layup by Higgins tied it at 48-48. After Thomas made free throws, Teodosic hit his trademark mid-range jumper and another triple by Fridzon completed the guests's comeback at 50-53 midway through the third quarter. Thomas shined with a catch-and-shoot five-meter jumper and Jamar Smith copied him right after that to put Unicaja back ahead, 54-53. Freeland drew a couple of shooting fouls and split free throw attempts to restore a 54-55 CSKA lead. Unicaja struggled to organize its offense without Jackson and Thomas on court. Demetris Nichols stepped up with a three-pointer from the left corner and free throws by De Colo boosted CSKA's lead to 54-60. Jack Cooley and Diez hit free throws, but Nichols hit another triple from the same exact spot and Freeland gave CSKA a 57-65 lead.
Fourth quarter: Kurbanov takes over and CSKA wins
Thomas scored down low early in the quarter and a layup by Smith got the crowd involved at 61-65. De Colo stepped up with a bomb from downtown. Stefan Markovic quickly answered with a driving layup and Higgins also hit one from beyond the arc to boost his team's margin to 63-71 with six minutes left. Jackson answered from downtown off an inbound pass, but CSKA found a new go-to guy in Kurbanov. He followed free throws with a fast break slam and soon added a three-pointer, which made it a double-digit game, 68-78. Kuzminskas made free throws. Freeland scored again and a wild three-point play by De Colo sealed the outcome, 70-83, with over two minutes left. Unicaja did not give up and kept powering the boards, but by the time Kurbanov hit another triple, everything was said and done already. CSKA walked away as the Group D champion.
Friday, December 18, 2015