A Final Four team from last season busted into the Group B win column in spectacular fashion on Thursday as Unicaja blew away Cibona 102-64 at home in Malaga, Spain. Both teams are now 1-1, but Unicaja made sure that it sent a message in its first home game of the group. An explosion of 33 points in the second quarter while its defense was also doing the right things made the rest of the game into a walk-through for Unicaja. Davor Kus punished his ex-teammates from Cibona by nailing 5 of 5 three-pointers on his way to a floor-high 23 points for the winners. There was plenty of credit to go around on Unicaja. German Gabriel scored 14 points, Daniel Santiago 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks, both in just 17 minutes of floortime. Boniface Ndong added 12 points and 7 rebounds. Carlos Cabezas and Jiri Welsch shared 12 of their team's 25 assists. Cibona has little to cheer about except 14 points by Tre Kelley, 13 from Larry Ayuso and more decent play from Luksa Andric. The visitors suffered most from a 39-20 rebounding advantage and could do nothing on defense to limit Unicaja's 66% two-point and 45% three-point shooting.
Ayuso had Cibona ahead in the early going with a three-pointer after tipoff and a shorter jumper that made it 2-5 for the guests. Andric copied him from deep and Kelley scored off a steal as the Cibona edge reached 4-10. Unicaja's shots finally started falling as Santiago, Carlos Jimenez and Berni Rodriguez brought the hosts within 11-12. Chris Warren's pair of baskets kept Unicaja behind a bit longer, at 16-18, but Santiago sonn put the hosts ahead with a three-point play and then Cabezas drilled a two-pointer as Unicaja held a 21-18 lead after 10 minutes.
Jimenez pushed Unicaja further in front with a triple to open the second quarter, but Warren and Kelley were ready to carry Cibona some more as they shared the visitors' next 9 points. Kelley's driving layup tied it before his three-pointer put the guests back in the lead, at 26-27. What happened then changed the game suddenly and for good: Kus once and Gabriel twice detonated bombs from the arc to ingite an 18-7 run to complete control of the scoreboard. Gabriel got fouled on his next triple try and made all 3 free throws. Welsch got in the act with one from deep, too, before Gabriel returned to finish off the half with his long-range bomb, good for a 54-34 advantage at the break.
Cibona tried gamely after the half, but only got as close as 56-39 before Kus delivered again from downtown. He and Marcus Haislip were the only scorers for either team during a couple minutes that saw the difference climb to 65-41. It was all Kus all the time as his next 5 points pushed it to 70-43, but this was his quarter and he was not done. Another 5 points in succession by Kus - giving him 15 for the quarter - left the biggest lead yet, 78-48, after 30 minutes.
The only drama of the final quarter conerned Unicaja's drive for a 100 points to give the local fans three figures to remember from the first home game of the Euroleague season. Who else but Kus got the drive started with a triple at 85-52 before his teammates Ndong, Cabezas, Jimenez and Welsch took over the scoring for awhile. Gabriel did the honors with 2 free throws that landed the score at 100-64, by which time both teams were already thinking ahead on the schedule.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007