Winterthur FC Barcelona took an important step on Thursday night with its second straight road win of the Top 16, this time against Unicaja in Malaga by a close 68-71. The win allows Barcelona to rise to the first place of Group D to tie with Olympiacos, who defeated Zalgiris at home, with a 2-0 record. On the other hand, Unicaja meets Zalgiris at the bottom as both teams are now 0-2. Except a couple of occasions in which the guests pulled away by 10 points, the game was close throughout with constant changes in the lead. But the cold head of Barcelona in the last seconds allowed them to escape from Malaga with the win. Shammond Williams was the winners' best scorer with 19 points and Juan Carlos Navarro added 18, including a pair of late free throws that sealed the deal. For Unicaja, Daniel Santiago had 21 points by hitting 8 of 11 two-point shots, and Pepe Sanchez added 17, including 4 of 4 triples.
Jordi Trias opened the scoring for Barcelona but Santiago answered in the same way, from the paint, for the hosts. Denis Marconato slammed a Bootsy Thornton miss and Shammond Williams added points soon as the guests pulled away by 2-6. Unicaja kept looking inside, however, and found Santiago for a short shot and a jumper from almost 6 meters to pull within 6-8. When Santiago went ahead and tied the game at 8-8, Navarro blasted his first bomb from downtown for the visitors. The pace was fast and Unicaja moved the ball well around Barcelona's zone defense, but Gregor Fucka stepped in to give new life to Barcelona. Jorge Garbajosa also woke up and both players traded baskets up to 17-19, when Walter Herrmann's slam to tie again rallied the home crowd. Despite a second foul that sent Santiago to the bench, Unicaja jumped ahead when Garbajosa drove coast to coast and after 10 minutes the hosts led 22-19.
Garbajosa passed to Herrmann, who blasted a triple to open the second quarter as Barcelona was still struggling to score. It took the guests 2 minutes to get any more points, but when they did, it was a three-point shot by Williams that cut the lead to 25-24. Unicaja now had problems on offense as Trias blocked Carlos Cabezas and the fast transition allowed Basile to put the guests ahead again, 25-26, capping an 0-7 run. Berni Rodriguez connected with Sandro Nicevic to give Unicaja a breath, but Basile replied with a tough triple that made it 29-32. He wasn't done, and after Rodrigo De la Fuente's jumper, soon added another shot from downtown for a 29-37 Barcelona lead. Michalis Kakiouzis put the first double-digit lead on the score with a steal and fastbreak as Unicaja committed several turnovers. Marcus Brown finally broke the spell for Unicaja with a triple but no team would score until the halftime buzzer sounded with a 32-39 score on the board.
Trias scored the first basket of the second half and then fed Fucka to make it 33-43. Garbajosa kept scoring free throws to keep Unicaja in the game, and when Santiago lifted the ball to score again, Martin Carpena Arena woke up. Barcelona's choice of shots was not always right now, and Unicaja defense put even more pressure on the visitors. Finally, back-to-back triples for Unicaja by Herrmann and Sanchez tied the game in a few moments, 43-43. The hosts played safe on offense now, but Navarro finally replied with a basket-plus-free throw. Sanchez answered a new bomb from downtown and free throws by Santiago put Unicaja ahead again for the first time since early second quarter, 48-46. The guests insisted on long shots but Williams had to drive inside to score for Barcelona. Eventually, the guests found their accuracy as Navarro and Williams hit back-to-back triples to preserve a 54-55 Barcelona lead after 30 minutes.
Consecutive drives by Williams let Barcelona to add to its lead early in the final quarter, but Marconato was called for an unsportsmanlike foul that allowed Unicaja to add 3 more points with Sanchez's jumper. When Santiago scored inside again and added a new hook, Unicaja was ahead again, 61-59. Kakiouzis gave Barcelona some air with a triple from the wing with less than 4 minutes to go. Sanchez replied with his fourth bomb without a miss and Navarro answered right away for a 64-65 Barcelona lead. A huge triple by Williams on the shot-clock buzzer silenced the crowd in Malaga, but when Garbajosa hit 2 free throws, there was less than a minute to go and Barcelona had the possession with a 68-68 tie on the board. Williams almost took a five-second violation before passing to Basile, who was fouled and hit 1 of 2 free throws with 27 seconds. After a timeout, Berni Rodriguez drove with the key shot for Unicaja, but his layup missed and Williams pulled the rebound. Rodriguez fouled out with an unsportsmanlike foul, but Navarro missed both attempts with 9 seconds to go. Three seconds later Navarro was on the line again, and this time hit both to make it 68-71. Unicaja had 3 seconds left, but Herrmann's superlong triple attempt missed, leaving Barca to ride high in Group D.
Thursday, March 2, 2006