Unicaja of Malaga achieved its third Euroleague victory in Group A a lot more easily than the 86-79 final score against Alba Berlin on Thursday would indicate. Berlin struggled from tipoff to final buzzer and only managed to window dress the result in the last minutes. Before that Malaga was brilliant inside, totally dominating rebounds from the start and putting 9 block shots on the Berlin players who tried to go the basket. Veljko Mrsic took up the scoring responsibility for Malaga in the absence of injured Milan Gurovic and finished with 21 points. He was seconded by Carlos Cabezas with 14, and Frederic Weis and Moustapha Sonko with 11 each. Wendell Alexis had 23 points for Alba, Derrick Phelps 22 and marko Pesic 13. Unicaja evens its Group A record at 3-3, good for fifth place behind four leaders tied a 4-2, while Alba is 2-4.
Two escapes by Unicaja and two attempts by Alba to get back in the game characterized the first part of the game in Malaga. Martin Carpena arena, full as ever with 8,500 fans, enjoyed its team through the first 20 minutes. In the absence of his top scorer, Milan Gurovic, Unicaja coach Boza Maljkovic took advantage of his team's size advantage under the boards with Frederic Weis and Chuck Kornegay while Veljko Mrsic sniped from the exterier. With one strong run, Unicaja was able to open a 20-9 lead, but wasn't able to stop Alba from turning around and scoring 11 unanswered points. In the second quarter, Unicaja ran away again, this time by 20 points, 47-27. This time, Alba was only able to make things look a tad better with an 0-6 run that left the scoreboard at 47-33 on the half. Mrsic was up to 12 points for the home team, as was Wendell Alexis for the visitors. Unicaja's margin was reflected in two stats, a 22-12 advantage on the boards and Maljkovic rotating 10 players constantly to keep up the defensive pressure on Alba.
In the third quarter, only one team existed: Malaga. Cabezas and Berni Rodrigues, gaining confidence by the game, brought the crowd to its feet with spectacular steals leading to easy baskets. A three-pointer by Mrsic pushed the margin to 20 points, 65-45, and was up to 26, at 71-45, by the final minute of the quarter. The final period was pure formality and turned into a basketball party for the Malaga fans, who liked everything they saw on this night.
Thursday, November 15, 2001