Valencia downs Unicaja, clinches first place
In a battle that went down to the final seconds, Valencia Basket clinched first place in Top 16 Group G by downing Unicaja Malaga 69-72 on the road on Wednesday. Valencia remained undefeated in the group to finish ahead of Unicaja, which dropped to 3-2 and will be second. Matt Thomas led the winners with 18 points, Bojan Dubljevic added 15 and 8 rebounds, Aaron Doornekamp had 11 points while Mike Tobey pulled down 11 boards for Valencia. Jaime Fernandez paced Unicaja with 20 points, Adam Waczynski added 13 and Giorgi Shermadini had 10 for the home side, which led 45-35 at halftime. Unicaja still had a 69-66 edge late in the game, but Dubljevic and Guillem Vives fueled a final 0-6 run to win this important game.
Mathias Lessort got Unicaja going with a layup, igniting a 6-0 opening run that Waczynski capped with a jumper. Brian Roberts struck from downtown and Shermadini dunked twice to cause Valencia to call timeout at 13-1. Joan Sastre, Sam Van Rossom and Will Thomas rescued the visitors with respective three-pointers, but Fernandez and Waczynski kept Unicaja ahead, 19-10. Doornekamp scored down low and Matt Thomas hit a jumper to bring Valencia a bit closer, 19-14, after 10 minutes. Matt Thomas kept pacing the visitors with a four-point play early in the second quarter and Doornekamp capped a 0-11 run with a bomb from beyond the arc that gave Valencia its first lead, 19-21. Ryan Boatright stepped up with a triple-and-foul and Fernandez added a driving layup to restore a 25-21 Unicaja lead. Tobey and Lessort traded layups and Doornekamp banked in a floater to keep Valencia within 27-25. Matt Thomas buried consecutive jumpers, but Fernandez and Roberts helped Unicaja regain a 35-29 lead. Lessort hit free throws and a three-pointer by Fernandez made it a double-digit game again, 40-29. Dubljevic scored twice in the paint and Matt Thomas hit a jumper to get Valencia a bit closer, 45-35, at halftime. Fernando San Emeterio struck from downtown soon after the break and Will Thomas added a layup, but Shermadini and Waczynski answered for a 50-40 Unicaja margin. After Tobey followed a layup with a slam, Waczynski quickly downed a triple to make it 53-44 score. San Emeterio scored again only to see Viny Okouo do better with a layup-plus-foul. Matt Thomas and Waczynski exchanged three-pointers, but an unstoppable Dubljevic brought Valencia within 60-54 after 30 minutes. A layup by Dubljevic made it a 4-point game early in the fourth quarter. Doornekamp split free throws and Matt Thomas tied the game with a three-pointer, 60-60, with 7 minutes left. Dani Diez took over with a backdoor layup and Fernandez improved that with a triple, which caused Valencia to call timeout at 65-60. Doornekamp and Guillem Vives answered from beyond the arc to put the visitors in charge, 65-66. Shermadini made free throws and Dragan Milosavljevic found his first points, but Dubljevic restored a 69-70 Valencia edge in the next-to-last minute. Unicaja got the ball back with 26.8 seconds left, but Waczynski missed from downtown and Vives sealed the outcome from the foul line.
Dubljevic made the difference in crunch time. He finished the game with 15 points, 8 rebounds, an assist and 6 fouls drawn for a performance index rating of 21. He scored 11 points in the final 12 minutes, leading Valencia to a truly pivotal win.
Unicaja led 69-66 with three minutes left, but was held scoreless until the final buzzer. Meanwhile, Valencia looked for Dubljevic, who drew a couple of fouls, split free throws twice and added a jump hook for a 69-70 margin. Vives had a key block on Fernandez and hit free throws with 2.3 seconds left to seal Valencia's win.
Valencia outrebounded the hosts 34-30 and only allowed Unicaja to pull down 3 offensive rebounds - a new all-time low for the hosts in EuroCup action. Valencia also took great care of the ball, dishing 18 assists and committing just 10 turnovers.
Did you notice?
The first playoff series in this year's EuroCup has determined: ALBA Berlin vs. Unicaja Malaga. ALBA was first in Group E and will have the home-court advantage against Unicaja.
Both teams return to 7DAYS EuroCup action next week. Unicaja visits Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on Tuesday. A day later, Valencia Basket hosts Limoges CSP. LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne (5-0, +52), Morabanc Andorra (5-0, +39) and Valencia (5-0, +36) will fight for the top-seeded spot in the playoffs in Top 16 round 6.
Wednesday, January 30, 2019