Unicaja climbed to at least a share of first place in Group B at the end of this round and set a big showdown next week by downing Le Mans 87-68 in Malaga, Spain on Wednesday night. Unicaja improved to 9-3 and now ties with Lietuvos Rytas for the first place in Group B. Maccabi Elite will also join the first-place tie if it beats Cibona tomorrow. Moreover, Unicaja visits L. Rytas in a pivotal game in Group B next week. Meanwhile, Le Mans dropped to 0-12 and only has two games left to register its first win in its 2007-08 Euroleague season. Carlos Cabezas led the winners with 14 points. Jiri Welsch added 12 while German Gabriel and Berni Rodriguez each had 10 points for Unicaja, that had 5 other players with at least 6 points. Sam Clancy had 16 points for Le Mans while Luka Bogdanovic added 14. Gabriel led a 13-2 run that gave Unicaja a 23-14 lead after 10 minutes while Davor Kus made consecutive layup to boost the hosts' margin to 38-20. Clancy and Bogdanovic got Le Mans within 46-36 at halftime. Unicaja improved its defense after the break, while an outstanding Cabezas allowed the hosts to make it a 20-point game, 66-46, after 30 minutes. Bogdanovic went on fire and he got help from Nebojsa Bogavac to get Le Mans within 73-64 with 4 minutes to go, but a 9-0 run allowed Unicaja to seal the outcome.
Yannick Bokolo scored on a pair of driving baskets as Le Mans surprised everyone with a 0-8 start fueled by steals by Bokolo and Nicolas Batum. Unicaja started running then, too, with Jiri Welsch and Cabezas cashing in before the former's jump shot tied it up, 8-8 midway through the first quarter. Unicaja tried to run its offense through Santiago against Phil Ricci and Clancy, while another fastbreak layup by Welsch put Unicaja ahead, but Clancy matched it and Batum streaked long for another Le Mans lead, 10-12. After Santiago and Clancy exchanged points, Cabezas took back the advantage for Unicaja with a triple and a shorter jumper before Gabriel let go his own blast from the arc to make it 20-14. After a timeout, Batum missed free throws for Le Mans, which then left Gabriel open for another bomb that painted a 23-14 scoreboard at the end of the first quarter, after a 13-2 run.
Alain Koffi stepped up with an early basket that Gabriel matched in the other end, as Unicaja coach Sergio Scariolo opted to give young center Paulo Prestes some valuable playing time. He soon drew a foul and made free throws for a 27-18 Unicaja margin. Clancy and Gabriel traded jumpers, as Le Mans tried to speed up the game tempo with short possessions without much success. Jimenez beat the shot clock with a corner three-pointer while Welsch added free throws to make it a 14-point game, 34-20. Kus capped an 11-0 Unicaja run with consecutive driving layups, making Le Mans call timeout at 38-20. Batum stepped up with a reverse layup that Prestes erased with a jump hook. Limonad scored in penetration and Clancy added a layup in the low post, as Le Mans finally started to score fluently. Carlos Jimenez made free throws that Bogdanovic matched with a layup in transition. Clancy scored again to give Le Mans some hope at 41-30. Prestes took over with a layup-plus-foul that Clancy kept pacing Le Mans with a turnaround jumper. Prestes copied him in the other end but back-to-back tip-ins by Bogdanovic got Le Mans within 46-36 at halftime.
Marcus Haislip picked up a loose ball and fed Welsch for a two-handed dunk right after the break. Clancy scored over Santiago, who took revenge against Ricci in the other end. Rodriguez had a big block on Limonad but the guests kept attacking the basket. Limonad sank a jumper for a 50-40 Le Mans deficit. Welsch stepped up with a driving basket while Cabezas also scored his trademark layup in penetration for a 54-40 Unicaja lead. Bokolo scored in transition, as Unicaja kept having troubles to find its big men inside. Rodriguez stroke from downtown while Haislip added a layup to restore a 17-point Unicaja lead, 59-42. Clancy made free throws, as Le Mans improved its offense off a much-needed timeout but kept finding troubles to score. Cabezas provided a highlight with a power layup and the free throw that came with it while Melvin Sanders scored off a steal to make it a 20-point game, 64-44. Free throws by Batum and an incredible driving layup by Cabezas fixed the score at 66-46 after 30 minutes.
Le Mans needed a quick comeback to keep its chances alive but Unicaja kept its intensity in defense. Meanwhile, Sanders stepped up with a tip-in for a 68-46 Unicaja margin. Koffi tried to change things with a put-back basket while Bogdanovic added free throws but Le Mans needed much more than that now. Unicaja had started to use long possessions while Koffi provided a highlight with an alleyoop dunk. Unicaja did not lose control, as Kus hit free throws for a 71-52 lead. Bogdanovic answered from downtown to make Unicaja called timeout at 71-55. The hosts kept trying to get the clock running as fast as possible but another triple by Bogdanovic gave Le Mans some hope, 71-58, midway through the fourth quarter. Bogavac, who had been scoreless so far, buried a three-pointer and soon stroke again from downtown to get Le Mans within single digits, 73-64. Jimenez nailed a three-pointer while Rodriguez sealed the outcome with a fast break layup, 78-64. Le Mans ran out of time while Unicaja cruised to an important home win.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008