Unicaja leaves it late to sink Andorra
Unicaja Malaga inched closer to a place in the quarterfinals using a strong final quarter to beat visiting Spanish League rival MoraBanc Andorra 84-75 on Wednesday night. Unicaja remained perfect on ITS home floor this season and used its third consecutive win to improve to 3-1 in Top 16 Group H, while Andorra dropped to 0-4 and was mathematically eliminated. The teams were close throughout the game and Andorra led after three quarters, but Unicaja scored the first 8 points of the fourth quarter and kept using its defense to increase the margin to double figures and secure the victory. Jaime Fernandez led in victory with 18 points. Ruben Guerrero collected 13 points plus 8 rebounds, while Alberto Diaz and Adam Waczynski scored 11 apiece in the victory. Dejan Todorovic netted 20 points for Andorra and Martin Krampelj scored 10 in a losing effort.
Dejan Musli had three close-range baskets for Andorra, but the hosts hit three wide-open three-pointers - one each from Axel Toupane, Fernandez and Deon Thompson to open a 17-8 lead. David Jelinek added to Andorra's tally with a driving layup and long corner jumper, helping the visitors within 21-15 after 10 minutes. Unicaja increased the difference to 28-19 with baskets inside from Guerrero and Thompson. After Clevin Hannah and Carlos Suarez trade triples, Todorovic hit a three-pointer, starting a string of 9 consecutive points. Volodymyr Gerun had a three-point play for the hosts before Krampelj's three-pointer made it 38-37. The margin stood at 43-42 at halftime.
The teams continued trading blows, and mistakes, early in the second half as each team had 5 turnovers in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter. Fernandez and David Walker traded triples before Frantz Massenat helped the visitors take a 50-51 edge. Jeremy Senglin had a transition triple then a driving layup to make it 52-58. After Waczynski and Todorovic traded threes, the hosts closed to within 59-61 to end the third quarter and then kept Andorra scoreless for almost 3 minutes to open the fourth. During that span, Diaz hit back-to-back threes to restore a 67-61 lead. Krampelj snapped a 12-0 run and Walker hit a triple to keep the visitors' hopes alive. However, Waczynski hit from downtown before Fernandez took it to the rim to open the first double-digit lead of the game, 79-68 with 2:40 left, and there was no coming back for the visitors.
Unicaja had a key 12-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters. Down 55-61 with 2 and a half minutes to go in the third quarter, Unicaja scored the final 4 points of the quarter and then opened the fourth with an 8-0 run capped by back-to-back threes from Alberto Diaz. Unicaja never relinquished the lead or control of the game.
It was far from Unicaja's best performance of the season, but the 2017 EuroCup champs are still undefeated at home, where they have won all seven games this season.
Andorra has a club-record 27 turnover, which is also Unicaja's club record for forced turnovers. 17 of them were committed in the second half. Interestingly, Andorra had the most turnovers in the third quarter, 9, which is a quarter the team still won 16-19. Andorra's total of 27 turnovers is tied for the most by any team in the last four years.
One of last season's semifinalists, Andorra is now assured it will end this campaign in the Top 16. Andorra entered the Top 16 on a five-game winnings streak as one of the hottest teams in the competition, but has four losses in as many games so far in Group H.
Next week in Top 16 Round 5, both teams will be at home. Andorra will host a fellow Spanish League team Joventut Badalona (2-2) on Tuesday. Unicaja will square off against Tofas Bursa in a battle of group leaders on Wednesday.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020