The Unicaja fans in Malaga are not likely to forget Ed Cota of Zalgiris anytime soon. For the second year in a row, the final shot of the game went from Cota's hands through the basket in Malaga to give Zalgiris a 72-74 win against Unicaja in Group B on Thursday. Zalgiris improves to 3-1 and exclusive hold of third place, while Unicaja falls to 0-4, though clearly more dangerous with Sergio Scariolo coaching. Tanoka Beard had 18 points and 8 rebounds for the winners. Arvydas Sabonis added a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Besides hitting the game-winner, Cota had a good all-around game with 14 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds, while Mindaugas Timinskas chipped in 11 for Zalgiris. Larry Lewis and Walter Herrmann led Unicaja with 16 points apiece, while Moustapha Sonko came off the bench to score 12 points.
Both teams started the game with man-to-man defenses, as an opening basket by Walter Herrmann of Unicaja was soon answered by a three-pointer from Cota. Berni Rodriguez scored fi5 ve of Unicaja's next 7 points to give the hosts the lead at 9-6, but he picked a second foul and was replaced by Moustapha Sonko. A layup in penetration by Miroslav Beric and and a three-pointer from the front line by Salenga put Zalgiris ahead now, 10-13. The teams exchanged baskets through the middle of the quarter, then Mindaugas Timinskas appeared to follow one basket with an alleyoop reverse layup to give Zalgiris a 14-17 lead. Larry Lewis and Tanoka Beard exchanged baskets before Sonko hit a huge running three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game, 19-19, at the end of the first quarter.
Lewis made a fast break slam off a steal and Stephane Risacher added a six-meter jumper to give Unicaja a four-point lead, 23-19, early in the second quarter. Sabonis came on court to join Beard as the go-to guys for the guests, but Sonko made a layup, Lewis added a three-pointer and Risacher made a mid-range jumper to keep Unicaja ahead, 30-27. Sabonis stepped up, following a layup, to hit a three-meter jumper off the glass which ignited a 0-8 run in which Timinskas added 2 free throws. Cota grabbed 2 consecutive offensive rebounds and added a layup to give Zalgiris a four-point lead, 32-36. German Gabriel was blocked by Sabonis, but he picked the offensive rebound to shoot a jump hook over the Lithuanian giant for the final points of the half. Zalgiris, who was outrebounding Unicaja 9-17, reached the locker rooms up by a basket, 34-36.
Cota opened the second half with a layup and soon Salenga added a basket off the baseline and a fastbreak layup to give the guests a 37-42 lead. But Sabonis picked up his second and third fouls, and Zalgiris struggled against Unicaja's zone defense. Meanwhile, a shot by Cabezas, a three-point play by Herrmann and a bomb from downtown by Sonko powered a 8-2 local run to take Unicaja ahead, 47-44. Zalgiris found the way again to the basket by feeding Beard in the paint. He scored consecutive baskets, and the second one ignited a 1-6 run. A six-meter jumper by Salenga and a fastbreak layup by Cota off a block put Zalgiris back in front, 51-52. That only meant it was Unicaja's turn, and its final 7-2 run, with Herrmann hitting a bomb from the left corner, Chuck Kornegay dunking and Sonko adding a layup put the locals back in front, 58-54, after 30 minutes.
Sabonis picked up his fourth foul on offense early in the fourth quarter, which limited Zalgiris at both ends of the court. Lewis scored near the basket and Herrmann added a four-meter jumper to make it an eight-point Unicaja lead, 62-54. But Cota and Timinskas, with back-to-back three-pointers, stopped the early celebrating among Unicaja's fans. Beard returned with his team down 64-60 and 5 minures to go and soon scored back-to-back baskets to tie the game, 64-64. Joining Beard dominate under the baskets, Sabonis made 2 free throws, his first points in the second half. Beard then added another basket, but Unicaja finally found Herrmann in crunch-time, and is 4 points tied the game again, 68-68, entering the final minute. Zalgiris moved the ball well in offense, finding Giedrius Gustas, who scored a long two-pointer. Sonko answered with a layup with 40 seconds remaining. Cota drove to the basket and missed, but Sabonis scored a huge putback with the offensive rebound. Rodriguez missed a game-deciding three, but Timinskas returned the favour, missing two freebies with 15.2 seconds to go. Rodriguez made up for his mistake by making 2 free throws to tie the game with 10 seconds left, but Cota had the last say. He came downcourt with the ball and didn't stop until he had made a five-meter jumper to leave all of Malaga stunned but his own team very much alive in brutal Group B.
Thursday, November 27, 2003