Unicaja rejoined the Top 16 race in Group B by beating Cibona 73-67 at home in Malaga, Spain on Thursday. With identical 4-6 records, both teams now join a four-way tie for fourth place in the group with Partizan and Lottomatica Roma. Daniel Santiago led the winners with 14 points, including a game-ending tip-in to secure a tiebreak advantage should Unicaja and Cibona be tied head-to-head at the end of the regular season, too. Berni Rodriguez and Kostas Vasileadis each added 13 points for Unicaja, while Pepe Sanchez dished 7 assists. Andrew Wisniewski led Cibona with 22 points, Jerry McCullough added 16 and Marin Rozic had 10 for the guests. Unicaja used a 13-0 early run to get the lead for good and boosted its margin to 62-43 with 8 minutes to go. Wisniewski and Roxic brought Cibona back to within 71-67 with seconds to go before Santiago scored his key basket at the buzzer.
After Cibona started the game with a jumper by Wizniewsky and an inside shot by Brent Wright, Unicaja responded with a 13-0 blast that marked a distance for almost the rest of the game. Santiago dunked to start it, while Jiri Welsch and Rodriguez scored twice each, the latter with a triple and fastbreak layup to end it and force a Cibona timeout. The visitors lifted their heads with a 2-6 answer highlighted by a dunk from Marton Bader, but after that, Unicaja rolled out the next 7 points. Rodriguez struck again from downtown, while Carlos Cabezas and Carlos Jimenez finished fastbreaks. Rodriguez returned with the last word of the quarter, a backdoor cut assisted by Sanchez that left Unicaja in charge 12-24 after 10 minutes.
Marin Rozic started the second quarter with a three-point basket-plus-free throw for Cibona, but soon Unicaja had another go-to ace in Vasileiadis. He dropped a triple and a jumper nearly as long, assisted Iñaki De Miguel on a basket and then finished an 8-0 Unicaja spurt with a layup of his own to make it 33-15, the biggest lead yet. After McCullough downed a pair of shots for Cibona, Vasileiadis struck again from downtown. His partner in the run was Sanchez, who set up several of those baskets and shortly after passed for his sixth assist already on De Miguel's three-point play to make it 39-23. Wizniewsky, McCullough and Chris Warren worked the rest of the quarter for Cibona to cut the difference to 42-29 before the halftime buzzer sounded.
Unicaja kept shining on defense after the break, while Wright picked up his fourth foul already. Bader followed a free throw with a five-meter jumper to give Cibona some hope at 42-32. Rodriguez rescued Unicaja with his third triple and even when Wisniewski shined with a reverse layup, Welsch answered from downtown to make it a 14-point game, 48-34. Santiago intimidated the whole Cibona frontcourt, but still Wisniewski got through Unicaja's defense for a three-point play. Bader nailed a jumper, too, for the guests, but Santiago bettered it with a layup-plus-free throw. Bader scored again in penetration while Wisniewski buried a jumper to get Cibona within 51-43. Unicaja called timeout and re-ordered its defense, after which Santiago dunked twice and Sanchez scored in the low post to make it a 14-point game, 57-43, after three quarters.
Cibona needed a quick comeback in the final quarter to keep its chances alive, but foul trouble and many turnovers allowed Unicaja to stay ahead. Florent Pietrus scored inside for the hosts while Vasiliadis buried a huge three-pointer for a 62-43 Unicaja lead with 8 minutes to go. Wisniewski and Warren combined for 4 quick points but Sanchez brought the crowd to its feet with his floating layup. McCullough had 4 points and fed Rozic for an easy basket in a 0-6 run that got the guests within 64-53 midway through the fourth quarter. Sanchez scored again but Rozic erased it with a power layup and Wisniewski buried a shot from downtown to cut the deficit even further, to 66-58. A flagrant foul by McCullough allowed Sanchez and Santiago to seal the win, 72-60, with 3 minutes to go. Cibona kept fighting for the point difference in case of a tie at the end of the regular season, but with Santiago's late tip-in, Unicaja got both a well-deserved win and a tiebreak advantage.
Thursday, January 4, 2007