Unicaja put its name among the Group B leaders by surging at the finish to a 74-83 road win over Le Mans Sarthe Basket in France on Thursday. Unicaja's second road victory boosted its record to 4-1, giving it a first-place tie with Lietuvos Rytas. Le Mans fell to 0-5 and now finds itself alone in the group's last place. Unicaja lost all of a 14-point halftime lead while scoring only 6 points in 12 minutes after the break, but recovered and applied its own stellar defense down the stretch to take the win. Big men Daniel Santiago and German Gabriel paced Unicaja on offense with 14 points each. Bojan Popovic came of the bench for 13 points, including key three-pointers late, while Berni Rodriguez added 11 points. Le Mans was led in scoring by substitute Nebojsa Bogavac, with 18 points. Yannick Bokolo added 14 points, 7 assists and 5 steals, while Nicolas Batum scored 12 and Same Clancy 11.
Gabriel did what he does best, tossing in a three-pointer for Unica to start the game, but Bogdanovic matched him at the other end. Batum, Clancy and Bokolo sewed together successive baskets to keep Le Mans a step ahead at 9-7, but that's when Unicaja busted out. The visitors went inside to Santiago for three baskets, while Cabezas rained a triple and Rodriguez dropped free throws for an 0-11 run to a 9-18 lead. Le Mans used a timeout to bolster its defense, while Clancy, Bogdanovic and Nebojsa Bogavac got the hosts back to 15-18. Unicaja needed the timeout now, after which Gabriel returned to the three-point arc and Rodriguez raced for a layup. Raviv Limonad answerd teh triple, but Boniface Ndong and Cabezas scored in the final minute to keep Unicaja in charge at 20-27 after a quarter.
Bogavac and Phil Ricci rifled Le Mans into the game with back-to-back triples to start the second quarter. Gabriel was there to answer the second, however, and when Popovic and Ndong scored the next 4 points, Unicaja was safe again at 26-34. Bokolo's layup and Alain Koffi's dunk helped Le Mans, but the Unicaja response was greater, with 4 three-pointers in the span of a couple minutes - by Jiri Welsch, Davor Kus and Popovic twice - as the difference ballooned to 34-48. Batum scored 5 points in a row for Le Mans, but a half-court pass by Popovic to Carlos Jimenez and 4 late points by Kus helped Unicaja cruise into halftime ahead by a comfortable 41-54 margin.
Le Mans got back in the game with defense after halftime, holding Unicaja to 3 points in 5 minutes while Clancy and Bokolo's two-pointers set up a big triple by Bogavac that cut the difference in halft, to 51-58. And Le Mans was not done. Within a couple minutes, Bokolo and Bogavac were firing in successive bombs from the arc to pull the hosts within 59-60. That's where the score stuck as the Le Mans defense finished allowed just a single basket by Rodriguez over the final 6 minutes and holding Unicaja to 6 points over the whole 10 to finish the third quarter within a point of the lead.
Ricci did the honor of completing the Le Mans comeback with the go-head basket on the final quarter's first shot, then Bokolo added a two-pointer to give the hosts a 63-60 lead. Unicaja went to its go-to big man, Santiago, to end its spell, and he did so with 2 inside baskets before Popovic tied it up 66-66 at the foul line. Bokolo and Gabriel kept the teams even from two-point distance, and then Batum and Popovic did the same with dueling triples from the arc. The key play came next, with Rodriguez swiping a steal and heading downcourt to feed Gabriel out top for the triple that gave Unicaja a 71-74 lead with under 4 minutes left. The visitors did not trail again, because even while Clancy hit 1 of 2 free throws, Santiago answered by banking in a hook shot. After a Le Mans timeout, Unicaja swarmed to stop Bogdanovic's triple try while at the other end, Rodriguez waltzed to the rim for an easy layup. As the Le Mans defense had done earlier, now Unicaja's ruled, creating havoc for the hosts while assuring itself a place among the Group B leaders after five weeks.
Thursday, November 22, 2007