Unicaja wrapped up third place and a second-level seed for Monday’s Top 16 Draw with an 87-77 win over Efes Pilsen on Thursday at the Martin Carpena Arena in Malaga, Spain. With the victory, Unicaja finishes the regular season with 10-4 record, the best among the third placed teams in the competition. Meanwhile Efes slipped to 8-6, but finished the season in fourth place and will be a level three seed at the draw. The victory was Unicaja’s 15 consecutive Euroleague home win. Marcus Haislip led Unicaja with a season-high 23 points, Carlos Cabezas added 14 and Boniface NDong had 11. Andre Hutson paced Efes with 17 points, Ermal Kuqo and Kerem Gonlum scored 13 apiece and Kenny Gregory had 10. Efes started strong and Hutson helped the visitors finish the first quarter up 22-24. However the hosts found the answers for Efes’s defense by the second period, outscoring its opponents 32-14 to take control for good. The lead reached 20 early in the fourth quarter and Unicaja coasted the rest of the way. Efes managed to get within 10 late in the game, but Cabezas took charge to ensure the hosts of victory.
Loren dunked on the first attack off a nice assist from Scoonie Penn, but a Daniel Santiago layup gave the first sign of a real good challenge. Carlos Jimenez’s 3 free throws gave the hosts a 7-4 edge only for Gonlum and Kuqo to balance the game for Efes. Haislip pushed the home side forward, eventually pushing his team out to 18-16 with a layup. Efes was trying to surprise Unicaja with the different styles of defense, turning from match-up zone suddenly to man-to-man, but the home team stayed strong inside. Four points from Hutson gave Efes an 18-22 advantage, but Jiri Welsch and Cabezas points ended the first quarter at 22-24
Haislip scored 9 points just in the first 191 seconds of the second period, including a three-pointer, to give Unicaja a 31-27 lead. The Unicaja defense also was getting stronger, while Efes started to make mistakes on offence. Bojan Popovic and Davor Kus joined the game to better the hosts’ offensive production with good organization. Meanwhile foul problems sidelined Kuqo and Efes’s defensive problems were getting bigger. A Kus triple, followed by a NDong layup, made it 41-29 as the host took control. Drew Nicholas and Gregory hit three-pointers showed signs of life from the visitors, but Unicaja still strengthened the lead until the end of the first half. Melvin Sanders’s three pointer made it 51-38 and then German Gabriel hit another from downtown to end the first half with a comfortable lead for Unicaja, 54-38.
Unicaja increased its lead to 20 points early in the third period. Cabezas stole the ball from Penn for a layup and made another one in the same minute to extend the lead to 60-40. Then Efes had 0-7 spurt in the next three minutes to cut the lead to 13 with a Kuqo layup. Hutson made it 61-49 as Efes started using zone pressure and tried to stop Unicaja from scoring more. But small mistakes in offence kept Efes from coming closer. A Kus layup ended the third quarter at 67-53 for Unicaja.
Kus opened the score in the last period to extend the Unicaja lead to 16 points again. The visitors tried hard to get back in the game, but Unicaja used its advantage very well. Gregory got Efes within 75-63, but Gabriel and Cabezas worked well to keep Unicaja in charge. A Gonlum layup made it 77-65, but Cabezas penetrated inside. The Gonlum-Cabezas duel kept going, but it didn’t allow Efes to get any closer. Gonlum had a layup-plus-foul to get Efes to 83-73, but Unicaja stayed resistant on defense the rest of the way to seal the win.
Thursday, January 31, 2008