Unicaja denies Joventut with first win
Unicaja Malaga gained its first win of the Top 16 and denied Joventut Badalona the chance to secure a berth in the next stage with a 77-90 road win on Tuesday night. A closely-fought first half was notable for a remarkable start from Ferran Bassas, who scored 17 points in the first quarter alone. The game stayed tightly contested, but Unicaja led for the last 12 minutes and pulled away in the final stages. Jaime Fernandez paced Unicaja with a double-double of 22 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds, supported by 22 points from Adam Waczynski and 14 from Axel Bouteille. Bassas finished with 21 points, and Vladimir Brodziansky was the only other Joventut player in double digits with 12 points. Eliminated Unicaja improved to 1-4 while Joventut fell to 3-2 and will see its fate decided next week.
Deon Thompson’s triple opened the scoring for Unicaja before Bassas scored inside three times for Joventut’s first lead. Bassas continued his remarkable start by adding a pair of three-pointers for a 12-7 lead. Waczynski responded with a couple of deep strikes and Fernandez added another as Unicaja moved ahead, but Bassas scored inside yet again and then added another three before Fernandez netted at the rim to make it 21-21 after 10 minutes. Simon Birgander and Yannick Nzosa exchanged close-range scores early in the second, before Bouteille and Pau Ribas both scored twice as it stayed close. Pablo Sanchez hit from deep and Nsoza scored from mid-range for Unicaja, but Nenad Dimitrijevic netted consecutive baskets to keep Joventut in touch, 31-34. Ante Tomic and Waczynski exchanged inside scores before a slam from Ruben Guerrero was answered by Bassas at the rim. Fernandez scored a layup, but Ribas had the final word of the first half from the foul line, making it 41-40 at the break.
Fernandez scored three times for Unicaja early in the second half, but that was answered by two baskets from Tomic and a deep strike from Brodziansky. Bouteille’s triple and driving layup sent Unicaja back in front, 48-51, but Xabi Lopez-Arostegui tied it up with a three-point play. Brodziansky and Bouteille traded triples before Conor Morgan’s fadeaway forced another tie, 56-56. Sanchez and Waczynski both netted from beyond the arc, giving Unicaja a 60-65 edge entering the final frame. Defenses dominated the early stages of the fourth quarter as Francis Alonso’s score in penetration kept Unicaja ahead. Tim Abromaitis sank a pair of three-pointers to make it 65-73 with 5 minutes left, but Bassas and Morgan scored from close range to keep Joventut hoping. Nzosa made a three-point play and Bouteille netted inside to give Unicaja a 70-80 lead and Brodziansky’s triple was in vain as Waczynski struck from the corner to seal the outcome.
Three-point shooting boosts Unicaja
One of the keys to Unicaja’s victory was excellent three-point shooting, with the visiting team making 13 of 28 long-range shots on the back of 5 of 6 from Adam Waczynski. Joventut, by contrast, could only make 6 of 17 from beyond the arc.
Abromaitis makes key contribution
The game was broken midway through the final quarter when veteran sharpshooter Tim Abromaitis scored a pair of three-pointers in the space of 23 seconds. That stretched Unicaja’s lead from 2 points to 8 and Joventut never got closer than 5 the rest of the way. Those were the only points of the night for Abromaitis.
Early Bassas explosion not enough
Joventut guard Ferran Bassas had one of the best first quarters in the history of the competition, scoring 17 points on 4-of-4 two-point shooting and 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. But he could only score twice more as Unicaja’s defense tightened up and he finished with a career-high 21 points.
Jackson injured on Joventut debut
Recent signing Demetrius Jackson made his EuroCup debut for Joventut and produced a highlight-reel play with a no-look pass to Simon Birgander for a dunk. But his debut didn’t last long as he limped out of action in the first quarter and didn’t return.
Joventut now needs to win, or lose by less than 5, when it travels to Nanterre 92 for the final game of the Top 16 next Tuesday. Unicaja will bow out of the competition at home to already-qualified AS Monaco on the same night.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021