There is new second-place team in Group C after Unicaja hung on for a 76-83 road win over Ulker on Wednesday in Istanbul. The victory lifted Unicaja's record to 7-2 and practically assured it passage to the Top 16. It also was good for sole possession of second place after CSKA lost to group leader Panathinaikos. Ulker, meanwhile, fell into danger at 2-7 at the bottom of the table. Daniel Santiago was huge inside for the winners with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Marcus Brown added 19 for Unicaja, while Jorge Garbajosa put up 15 points, including 5 in a row at a key moment in the final quarter. Jeff Trepagnier was Ulker's top scorer, with 17 points, while Vrbica Stefanov added 15 and new center Robert Gulyas 12.
Ulker got off to a good start with high-percentage outside shooting as Kutluay nailed a pair of early jumpers. Walter Herrmann matched them with layups for Unicaja. Likewise, when Ulker got inside points by Haislip, Unicaja got them outside from Garbajosa, who made it a 10-12 score. Ulker finally shot itself way ahead as Vrbica Stefanov and Jeff Trepagnier put in 3 consectuvie three-pointers to put the hosts ahead 18-10. Unicaja struggled to use the paint but got a jumper from Garbajosa and a layup by Brown to stay close, however Haislip and Trepagnier bumped Ulker's lead up to 22-14. Santiago appeared then to hit a free throw and dunk and help trim Ulker's advantage to 22-18 after a quarter.
Unicaja had en impressive start to the second quarter, going on a 2-10 run fueled by triples from Cabezas and Berni Rodriguez. A layup by Cabezas finished it with the guests in front, 24-28. Ulker got help from its new center, Gulyas, who landed his first jump shot to start a 7-1 run that Stefanov finished with a layup to take back the lead, 31-29. Then it was Unicaja's turn again, this time from downtown. Boom, boom, boom came triples from Brown, Cabezas and Rodriguez to vault the guests in front 31-38. Ulker needed a response in the 2 minutes left and got it with 2 points each from Trepagnier, Mirsad Turkcan and Omer Onan to trim the difference to 37-40 at the half.
In the third quarter, the battle moved underneath the baskets as each team fought for control of the game. Gulyas was a catalyst for Ulker, throwing his weight around to scoring a pair of baskets, the second of which forged a 46-46 tie. When he put in free throws a couple minutes later, the hosts had a 50-48 lead. Their only problem ws tht Santiago was fully warmed up at the other end. His third basket of the quarter tied it 50-50 and set up Brown's go-ahead triple. Kutluay got to the line for 3 free throws to tie, but Santiago dunked and scored a close shot in a 0-6 run that pushed Unicaja ahead 53-59. Gulyas, Turkcan and Trepagnier matched that run to tie 59-59 and rouse the crowd, but Santiago and Rodriguez finished the quarter giving the guests a 59-63 advantage.
Cabezas started the final quarter with a triple and Garbajosa added a layup as Unicaja took its biggest lead at 59-68. Stefanov got 3 back on one shot from the arc, then his and Haislip's baskets plus a free throw by Turkcan trimmed the difference to 67-70. That, however is when Garbajosa took over with 5 straight points, a running hook on a loose ball and a triple on the break, to put the visitors in charge at 67-75. Santiago soon scored for the double-digit difference and Cabezas pushed it to 11 points, 67-78, with a free throw. Ulker tried it hard in the remaining minutes, coming to within 76-80 on a late triple by Turkcan, but Unicaja managed the rest of the time for its sixth win in a row.
Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Gokhan Ture, Istanbul