Unicaja vaulted into a three-way tie for second place in Group C when it held off visiting Pau-Orthez with a difficult 81-73 victory in Malaga, Spain on Thursday. In a game of streaks, Unicaja kept Pau at bay with a big triple from Carlos Cabezas heading into the last minute, when Jorge Garbajosa and Berni Rodriguez buried 6 of 6 free throws to assure the win. Unicaja lifted its record to 5-2, good enough for a share of second place alongside CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid. Pau fell to 1-6 and is part of a last-place tie with Partizan. Daniel Santiago led the winners in scoring with 17 points, while Garbajosa led in every key moment and finished with a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds. Cabezas added 14 points for the winners, Rodriguez 12 and Marcus Brown 11. Pau got a major inside game from Brooks Sales, with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Lonnie Cooper bagged 14 points and Clint Harrison 12.
Both teams looked inside to start, as Santiago for Unicaja and Sales for Pau exchanged baskets and free throws in a 4-4 tie. The game's first three-pointer rolled off the hands of Harrison, after which Sales kept up the inside attack with a pair of baskets, including a dunk. When Artur Drozdov drained a jumper, the guests had an 8-13 advantage after 6 minutes. Carlos Cabezas checked in with Unicaja's first triple, and when his partner Berni Rodriguez added another, Unicaja had a 7-0 run and a 15-13 lead. Stephane Risacher and Rodriguez kept the hosts in front despite Drozdov's shot from downtown before Santiago finished the first quarter with a dunk and his team holding a 21-18 edge.
Two early baskets by Jeff Varem and Lonnie Cooper got Pau within 23-21 at the start of the second quarter. Former Pau player Florent Pietrus, who was announced injured earlier in the day, then climbed off the bench and dunked for Unicaja. The teams traded quick baskets, with Marcus Brown putting Unicaja up as much as 30-23, but Sales hitting two in a row to keep Pau close. As the hosts' offense shut down, Thierry Rupert took advantage with a dunk and a jump shot to tie for the visitors, and then Drozdov closed a 1-10 Pau run with a slam that took the lead, 31-33. Unicaja's response came from downtown, where Garbajosa took back the lead with one shot, then Walter Herrmann buried back-to-back bombs to turn the tables in favor of the hosts, who held a 40-35 lead at the half.
Pau began chasing the lead again after halftime as Sales scored 4 points and Cooper a triple to bring the guests within 44-42. Garbajosa calmed the hosts with a three-point play, while Santiago returned with a dunk that pushed the lead back up to 9 points, 51-42. Only Sales and Cooper were getting to the basket for Pau, while Brown hit 5 points himself to open a double-digit lead, 56-46. Pau found relief in a 0-7 run in which T.J. Lux scored the first baskets inside and Jeff Varem slammed, but Rodriguez got a late layup to keep Unicaja ahead by 58-53 after 30 minutes.
Pau kept pushing as a Drozdov jumper early in the last quarter got the visitors within 58-55. But by then Garbajosa had seen enough. He drilled a triple on the next possession and soon came downcourt to bury another, putting Unicaja up 64-55. Cabezas kept it going with a three-point basket-plus-free throw to which Pietrus added his own foul shot to complete a 10-0 Unicaja run to a commanding 68-55 lead. Pau's scoring drought was about to end, however, as Harrison and Cooper combined on a three-minute 0-9 run that put the guests back in the game at 68-64. Garbajosa answered again for Unicaja and then Santiago put back an offensive layup to make it 72-64. After a timeout, Pau got a triple from Sales and free throws from Xane D'Almeida to rally within 72-69, but Cabezas responded from dowtown to take Unicaja into the final minute ahead 75-69. In those 60 seconds, Rodriguez and Garbajosa combined for 6 perfect free throws to hold off Pau and give Unicaja part of second place in Group C halfway through the regular season.
Thursday, December 15, 2005