Unicaja punches Top 16 ticket with sixth straight win
Unicaja Malaga booked a spot in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 with a superb defensive effort in a 63-48 victory at home over Asseco Prokom Gdynia in Group B. Malaga improved to 6-1 with its sixth straight win – paced by 12 points from Kosta Perovic, who had totaled just 8 points in the first six games of the group. Earl Calloway added 11 points for the winners. Prokom came into the game hitting 40 percent of its three-pointers, but missed its first 19 triple attempts in dropping to 1-6 in the group. Prokom, which lost its ninth straight road game dating back to December 2010, was led by Adam Hrycaniuk’s 10 points. Alex Acker and Rasid Mahalbasic both added 9 points in the losing effort.
First quarter: Slow rhythm leads to tight start
Unicaja coach Jasmin Respesa trusted the same starting five that ended up beating Maccabi last week – Calloway, Txemi Urtasun, Zoran Dragic, Fran Vazquez and Luka Zoric. Prokom boss Kestutis Kemzura made two changes to his first five with Mateusz Ponitka and Ryan Richards starting in favor of Frank Robinson and Mahalbasic along with Hrycaniuk, Acker and Lukasz Koszarek. Hrycaniuk opened the scoring with an inside basket. Urtasun hit Malaga’s first bucket, Dragic got out for a quick breakaway and Zoric’s free throws completed the 8-0 run for an 8-2 lead. Richards made two foul shots and a reverse layup to start an 0-8 run, finished by Mahalbasic’s score to make it 8-10. James Gist nailed a three from the left to give Unicaja back the lead and Marcus Williams’ tough basket had the hosts up 13-10. Prokom evened the game with a free throw by Mahalbasic and Acker’s jumper to make it 13-13 with 1:34 left in the quarter. Both teams struggled to find any rhythm offensively with 12 turnovers combined. And the first quarter ended with the teams deadlocked 13-13.
Second quarter: Perovic spurt gives Malaga double-digit lead
Hrycaniuk once again opened the quarter and was answered by a Vazquez tip-in, which started an 8-0 run, which included a left-hand basket by Krunoslav Simon and a fine pass by Simon for a Zoric dunk to make it 21-15. Ponitka raced ahead for a fast break layup to snap the drought but Zoric hit a jumper after a pick-and-roll and Urtasun nailed a triple for a 26-17 advantage. Prokom got two free throws by both Acker and Robinson to pull within seven but Perovic hit a baseline jumper, a right hand hook abd two free throws to increase the advantage to 34-23. Prokom had plenty of chances to be closer but missed all 14 of their three-point shots.
Third quarter: Tough Unicaja, futile Prokom outside shooting continues
Perovic continued where he left off with the opening score of the second half on a hook shot and Calloway nailed a three-ball to increase the advantage to 39-23. Mahalbasic got Prokom on the scoreboard with an inside basket to trim the game to 39-25. Prokom continued to miss open looks from outside and Perovic finished on the fast break and two Dragic free throws made it an 18-point game, 43-25. Asseco was finally able to string a couple baskets together with Mahalbasic sandwiching two tip-ins around a Jerel Blassingame jumper to cut the margin to 43-31 – and a Malaga timeout. But Prokom missed its last four shots and turned the ball over twice over the final stretch of the third quarter and Simon made two free throws and Gist a basket for a 47-31 Malaga lead after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Prokom finally hit from outside, Calloway long balls put doubts to bed
Piotr Szczotka hit a reverse layup to start the fourth quarter and Blassingame made it 47-35, but Williams’ jumper started a 5-0 run with Zoric’s layin after a fine pass pushed the advantage to 52-35. Dragic made it 54-37 before Acker hit a triple from the top of the key – Prokom’s first three-pointer after 19 straight misses. Hrycaniuk’s free throw and an offensive rebound putback by Ponitka cut the deficit to 55-44 with more than two minutes to play. But Calloway nailed triple from the left and right wings to re-establish a 17 point lead, 61-44 with a minute remaining.
Thursday, November 22, 2012