Tau Ceramica stayed unbeaten in Group C after two games by beating holding off hard-charging Unicaja 83-79 in Vitoria, Spain on Wednesday nigght. Tau had to battle all 40 minutes to stay unbeaten atop Group C along with CSKA Moscow. One of them will be alone in first place next week after they face each other in Moscow in a rematch of what has become a classic Euroleague showdown in recent years. Unicaja, meanwhile, dropped to 0-2 in the Group C standings. Sergi Vidal led the winners with 18 points. He made 2 of 3 three-point shots, 6 of 7 free throws and 4 steals. Jose Manuel Calderon added 16 points and 6 assists, Kornel David 15 points and Arvydas Macijauskas 13 on 3 of 3 three-pointers for Tau. J.R. Bremer had 19 points and 6 rebounds for Unicaja. Pepe Sanchez added 18 points and 5 assists, while Walter Herrmann and Fran Vazquez each had 12 points for the guests. Tau sealed the win with a 5-0 final run in which Vidal and Calderon shined, leading the hosts to an important win.
Tau Ceramica head coach Dusko Ivanovic shocked everyone by not including Travis Hansen or Macijauskas in the starting five. Vidal opened the scoring with a quick basket off the dribble, which Bremer immediately answered from downtown. Tau excelled at defense early in the game and looked for Andrew Betts near the basket. It worked, as he scored 4 points that Calderon followed with a long two-pointer to put Tau back in front, 8-3. Unicaja tried a timeout, but kept on struggling offensively, missing 5 shots in a row and committing 4 turnovers against Tau's superb man-to-man defense. Meanwhile, Scola and Vidal gave Tau a 12-3 lead by extending the home team's scoring run to 10-0. Unicaja improved once Gintaras Einikis stepped on court and scored 3 consecutive mid-range jumpers in a 1-8 run which brought the guests back into the game at 17-15. Calderon stepped up for Tau with 2 free throws in the final possession of the quarter, extending Tau's lead to 19-15.
Walter Herrmann opened the second period by landing a three-pointer for Unicaja, making it a one-point game at 19-18, but the proximity didn't last long. David became Tau's go-to guy, scoring 7 points in a mammoth 15-0 run in which Macijauskas and Roberto Gabini each drilled one shot from beyond the arch. Like that, Tau took a 34-18 lead after 15 minutes. Unicaja could not find the way to the basket until Sanchez stepped up with a big triple, Unicaja's first points in almost 4 minutes. Macijauskas matched it on the other end, but Unicaja now looked like a different, better team. Sanchez continued with 6 more points, on a basket-plus-foul and a three, which Berni Rodriguez followed with another bomb from downtown to bring Unicaja within 37-30 after 17 minutes. Tau called timeout, and Omar Quintero came to the rescue with 4 points in the final 2 minutes. But Vazquez dunked twice and added a reverse layup to keep Unicaja within 43-36 at halftime.
Both teams struggled to score in the opening minutes of the third quarter until a layup by Sanchez brought Unicaja within 43-38 after 23 minutes. David came to the rescue with a five-meter jumper and a two-handed slam during a 7-0 run for Tau in which Calderon drilled his second three-pointer. That pushed Tau's lead back to double digits at 50-38. Unicaja improved on defense midway through the period, while Vazquez and a hyperactive Herrmann scored to keep Unicaja close at 52-44. Tau had already started to have troubles against Unicaja's man-to-man defense, while Bremer hit a big three from the left corner to bring Unicaja within 55-49. The game turned into a three-point shootout, as Herrmann and Carlos Cabezas each drilled bombs for the guests, while Vidal hit 2 from downtown for Tau. Betts added a put-back layup to fix Tau's lead at 65-56 entering the fourth quarter
Unicaja needed to get back in the game quickly, but it took the guests almost 2 minutes to score in the last quarter. Even with that, back-to-back layups by Bremer brought Unicaja within 67-60, but an unstoppable Calderon helped Tau to keep a safe margin early in the fourth. Macijauskas found the way to beat Unicaja's alternative defenses, as he drilled a three-pointer and sank 2 free throws by drawing Vazquez's fifth foul, enough for Tau to lead 74-64. Macijauskas seemed to seal the outcome with a four-meter jumper which helped Tau to keep a double-digit lead, 78-68, but Unicaja had others ideas. Sanchez slashed to the basket to score, Bremer hit one from beyond the arc and added a three-point play for 8 unanswered points that brought Unicaja within 78-76 with less than 2 minutes remaining. It was do-or-die time for both teams, and Tau got the best of it, as Scola and Vidal combined to make 3 of 4 free throws while Calderon added a layup off a midcourt steal to seal the game at 83-76 with 20 seconds to go. Unicaja ran out of time, as Tau added its second Euroleague win of the season.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004