Unicaja battled for 45 minutes to seal its ticket to the Euroleague Top 16 through Group C by downing visiting CSKA Moscow 77-72 in Malaga, Spain on Wednesday. Unicaja improved to 8-2 and is second in the Group C standings. Meanwhile, CSKA Moscow dropped to 6-4 with its second straight loss and now shares the third place in this group with Real Madrid, which beat Partizan at home on Wednesday. Marcus Brown led the winners with 26 points on 8 of 8 free throws and 7 rebounds against his former team. Berni Rodriguez added 12 points for Unicaja. Jorge Garbajosa, who received his December MVP award from Eurolegue CEO Jordi Bertomeu in a short ceremony before the game, had 11 points and Daniel Santiago 10 for Unicaja. David Andersen had 16 points for CSKA while David Vanterpool, J.R. Holden and Trajan Langdon each added 14. Langdon sent the game to overtime with a seven-meter three-pointer, but CSKA went scoreless in the final 4 minutes of the extra period. Meanwhile, Brown had the first 6 points in an 8-0 final run tht helped Unicaja to register a historical win to reach its first Top 16 since the 2002-03 season.
Andersen hit a turnaround jumper and followed it with a four-meter shot for a 0-4 CSKA lead, as Unicaja went scoreless in the opening 2 minutes until Santiago made a put-back basket. Vanterpool canned a mid-range jumper to keep CSKA in charge, 2-6. Vanterpool stayed on fire with a fast break layup which Andersen followed with a six-meter jumper to give CSKA a 4-10 lead. Brown came to the rescue with a layup and Santiago dunked it, but Holden nailed a jumper from the left wing to keep the guests in charge, 8-12. Pepe Sanchez answered in the other end but Andersen shined again with a three-point play. Brown made free throws and Risacher scored in penetration in a 6-0 run which Santiago capped with his second dunk, good for a 16-15 Unicaja lead. Holden slashed for a layup and a 16-17 CSKA edge after 10 minutes.
Rodriguez put Unicaja back in charge with a put-back basket but Holden answered from downtown for a 18-20 CSKA edge. Santiago tied the game with a hook shot which Theo Papaloukas matched with a driving layup, as the game turned into a physical battle. Holden shined with a basket-plus-foul which Andersen followed with yet another basket to force an Unicaja timeout at 20-27. Garbajosa tried to wake the hosts up with a three but Vanterpool copied him in the other end. Rodriguez ran the break to find a three-point play, as CSKA quickly called timeout. Rodriguez stayed on fire, bringing Unicaja within 28-30. Langdon came to the rescue for CSKA with a three and Vanterpool beat the shot clock with another bomb from downtown. Garbajosa nailed his second three and Jesus Lazaro scored off a steal to bring Unicaja within 35-36 at halftime.
Holden came back strong after the break, as he hit a jumper which Vanterpool followed with free throws for a 35-40 CSKA lead. Risacher followed a basket in penetration with a turnaround jumper while Sanchez scored around the basket to bring Unicaja within 41-42. Andersen came to the rescue with a four-meter jumper while Papaloukas came off the bench and quickly stepped up with a driving layup. Sanchez erased with a layup and Brown fed Santiago for an alleyoop basket, but Vanterpool hit a tough jumper to keep CSKA ahead at 45-49. Brown made a short jumper which he followed with a three off a screen to put Unicaja in charge, 50-49. Smodis buried a jumper while Papaloukas beat the shot clock with a put-back jumper to make CSKA regain the lead, 50-53, at the end of the third quarter.
Langdon fired in a jumper for a 50-55 CSKA lead, after a 0-6 run. Garbajosa answered with a tough layup which Papaloukas matched with a driving basket. Garbajosa fired back with a six-meter jumper to bring Unicaja within 54-57. Holden took over with a huge finger-roll layup , as Unicaja called timeout at 54-59. Brown followed a driving layup with a three to tie the game, 59-59. Once again Brown made free throws while Sanchez capped a 0-10 run witha big three, as CSKA called timeout at 63-59. Smodis stepped up with a tip-in which Rodriguez erased with a driving layup. Brown made free throws for a 67-61 Unicaja lead with 1.47 to go. CSKA was not done, Smodis hit a baseline jumper and Langdon fired in a three to bring the guests within 67-66 with 30.4 seconds remaining. Langdon missed a key shot while Rodriguez made free throws with 14.1 seconds to go. It all came down to the final play, in which Langdon buried a seven-meter three with 4.6 seconds to force overtime, 69-69.
Langdon hit another three early in the extra period to give CSKA a 69-72 lead. Brown answered with a driving layup and made free throws soon after for a 73-72 Unicaja lead with 3 minutes remaining. Unicaja finally managed to slow Langdon while Brown - who else? - hit a short jumper to make CSKA call timeout at 75-72. Holden missed free throws with 1.32 to go and Garbajosa made 1 of 2 attempts for a 76-72 Unicaja edge with 1.12 remaining. Florent Pietrus grabbed a key offensive rebound and then had a critical steal on Smodis, while Rodriguez sealed the win from the free throw line, allowing a sellout crowd of 10,000 Unicaja fans to celebrate that their team is back in the Euroleague Top 16!
Wednesday, January 11, 2006