Unicaja Malaga outlasts Nizhny for first Top 16 win
Unicaja Malaga registered its first win in Top 16 Group F by downing Nizhny Novgorod 85-76 at home on Friday. Unicaja improved to 1-5 in Group F and registered its first Turkish Airlines Euroleague win since November, breaking a nine-game losing streak. Nizhny dropped to 2-4. Jayson Granger paced the winners with 29 points. Caleb Green added 16 and 8 rebounds, Fran Vazquez totaled 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals, while Mindaugas Kuzminskas scored 11 points for Unicaja. Trey Thompkins led Nizhny with 27 points and 13 points. Taylor Rochestie added 24 points and Art Parakhouski had 10 for the guests. Rochestie and Parakhouski shined early for a 7-15 Nizhny lead. The visitors found a new go-to guy in Thompkins, but Green and Granger brought Unicaja within 22-23 after 10 minutes. Granger took over in the second quarter, scoring 13 points to give Unicaja a 46-41 halftime lead. An outstanding Green helped the hosts to a double-digit lead, 55-43, but Rochestie and Thompkins carried Nizhny back within 64-57 at the end of the third quarter. A three-pointer by Evgeny Baburin tied the game at 66-66, but Unicaja improved its defense and held Nizhny scoreless for more than 6 minutes, while Vazquez and Granger combined for all the points in an 8-0 run that sealed the outcome down the stretch.
First quarter: Thompkins shines early for Nizhny
Rochestie got Nizhny going with a driving layup. Will Thomas quickly answered with a jump hook, but Rochestie found Parakhouski for a layup and Tarence Kinsey sank a mid-range jumper for a 2-6 Nizhny lead. Kinsey kept pacing the guests with free throws, which Green matched with a put-back basket. Thompkins hit foul shots, but a catch-and-shoot three-pointer by Green ignited the crowd at 7-10. Rochestie answered from downtown and added a jumper off the dribble, which caused Unicaja to call timeout at 7-15. After Kinsey split free throws, Fran Vazquez shined with a put-back slam and a three-pointer by Kostas Vasileadis brought Unicaja within 12-16. Granger buried a step-back jumper, which Thompkins bettered with a wide-open three-pointer. He added a close basket for a 14-21 Nizhny lead. Green sank his second triple and Thompkins hit a baseline jumper. Free throws by Kuzminskas and a bomb from downtown by Granger kept Unicaja within 22-23 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Granger steals the show
Semen Antonov beat the shot clock with a three-pointer early in the quarter. Granger answered from downtown, but Dmitriy Khvostov sent a no-look assist to Parakhouski for a slam. Kuzminskas hit a turnaround jumper and added a driving basket to give Unicaja its first lead, 29-28. Kuzminskas kept pacing Unicaja with a power layup, which Granger followed with a jumper for a 5-point cushion. Green took over with an off-balance three-pointer. A close basket by Thompkins kept Nizhny within 36-30. A red-hot Granger downed another jumper, which Parakhouski matched with a layup. Kuzminskas scored down low, but back-to-back baskets by Parakhouski made it 40-36. Granger buried another mid-range shot, which Rochestie improved on with a three-pointer. Granger answered with a five-meter jumper. Thompkins dunked, but free throws by an unstoppable Granger fixed the halftime score at 46-41.
Third quarter: Unicaja improves defense, extends lead
Both teams struggled to score after the break until Green took over with a step-back three-pointer. An alley-oop slam by Vazquez made it a double-digit game, 51-41, after which Nizhny called timeout. The guests were held scoreless for more than three minutes, during which Vazquez hit his trademark jumper from the elbow. Rochestie found Antonov for a backdoor layup, which Green erased with a fast break layup for a 55-43 Unicaja lead. Rochestie nailed a six-meter jumper and Thompkins followed with a three-pointer to give Nizhny hope. Carlos Suarez stepped up with back-to-back triples for a 61-50 lead. Vazquez hit another five-meter shot, but Rochestie nailed one from beyond the arc and Thompkins followed a power layup with a turnaround jumper to bring Nizhny within 6. Kuzminskas split free throws to boost the hosts' lead to 64-57.
Fourth quarter: Unicaja shuts down Nizhny to win
Thompkins struck from downtown early in the quarter and a fast break layup by Stefan Markovic gave Unicaja a 66-60 lead, as the game turned into a physical battle. Rochestie nailed a big triple and Evgeny Baburin copied him right after that to tie the game at 66-66, with eight minutes left. Unicaja kept struggling to score until Vazquez buried a five-meter jumper. The hosts improved their defense and Granger finished a two-chance offense with a floater. Unicaja kept powering the offensive glass and Vazquez beat the shot clock with a baseline jumper for a 72-66 lead with three minutes left. Granger made free throws to cap an 8-0 run that sealed the outcome, 74-66. Nizhny had been scoreless for more than six minutes and by the time Kinsey shined with a high-flying tip-in; it was too little, too late for the guests.
Friday, February 6, 2015