| The duel between Unics Kazan and DKV Joventut for the first place of Group D was an intense one until the very last minutes. When the dust settled, Joventut had emerged victorious, 75-78, but thanks to the point differential carried from the first-leg game in Spain in an 11-point win, Unics managed to finish the regular season as group champ. The win lifts Joventut to a 5-1 record, just the same as Unics. Luka Bogdanovic led Joventut with 16 points, Uros Tripkovic and Alain Koffi bagged 11 apiece and Edu Hernandez-Sonseca and Clay Tucker added 10 points each. For Unics, Terrell Lyday led all scorers with 27 points and Marko Popovic and Kresimir Loncar chipped in with 14 apiece. Unics dominated during the first half with small leads, but a 0-9 run to start the last period allowed Joventut to be virtual group champ for a few minutes. However, a new 7-0 run for the hosts sealed things off regarding the group situation. With these standings, Unics is therefore located in Group J for the Last 16, together with Power Electronics Valencia, Galatasaray Cafe Crown and Hapoel Jerusalem. On the other hand, DKV Joventut falls into Group I where it will meet Alba Berlin, Aris BSA 2003 and Le Mans.
Vladimir Veremeenko and Kresimir Loncar teamed up for a 4-0 start, until Kristaps Valters replied for the guests with a three. Unics started excelling in defense as son Marko Popovic scored again to make it
8-3 for the hosts. Valters and Luka Bogdanovic's respective threes allowed DKV Joventut to trail at a safe distance first, and jump ahead later, 12-13, but Terrell Lyday' five straight points put Unics ahead
again. Alain Koffi replied with a three-point play for Joventut, but Veremeenko's slam allowed the hosts to close the first period with a 23-18 lead. In a rather slow second quarter start, Uros Tripkovic
shined soon with two straight threes of his own and then Valters joined in to put Joventut ahead again after the 0-9 burst, 25-27. Unics was forced to call a timeout when Christian Eyenga had slammed the
ball to increase the burst, until Lyday finally managed to hit a free throw to show Unics' vital signs again. Popovic and Lyday were the ones to put things back in place to make it 33-33 in minute 18. Koffi
kept things going for Joventut until Lyday blasted another three that sent the game to the break, 38-37 for Unics.
Edu Hernandez-Sonseca got the second half started for Joventut with four straight points of his own, after two straight steals of the guests that forced Unics' new timeout. Lyday obliged, but Sonseca slammed
again to show that he was not to be stopped that easily. Bogdanovic joined in with a three for 40-46, but Sonseca was determined to take his team to the win. Straight threes by Clay Tucker and Bogdanovic
made all alarms go off in Kazan, and when Bogdanovic added a new one for an 11-point Joventut lead, Lyday had to step up again to copy him. But when Koffi slammed for the 57-61, it was time to start the
decisive period. Mario Fernandez opened the last period as it could be no other way, with a three. Joventut took a new small step towards its goal, as it sparked a 0-7 run for a 57-68 score. Unics went for a
timeout but Tripkovic poured more salt in the wound and Koffi joined in suddenly putting Joventut in the Group's first place. Unics finally woke up through Lyday, who else?, and Igor Zamanskiy as the game
reached its final 5 minutes. The Unics run evolved to a 7-0 now thanks to Popovic's three-pointer, forcing now Joventut's timeout. Saulius Stombergas scored his first points of the night from the arc also,
and Popovic copied him soon to finally revive Unics, 70-75 entering minute 39. In the last plays of the game, Joventut didn't know how to solve the situations in offense and in the end, despite winning the game by 75-78 after a late effort by the hosts, allowed Unics to become Group D champ.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010