Unicaja registered its first win in Top 16 Group D by thrashing Zalgiris 66-79 in Kaunas, Lithuania on Thursday night. Unicaja improved to 1-2 and gave itself new hope for the future halfway through the round. Meanwhile, Zalgiris dropped to 0-3 and will likely run out of chances to reach the next round if it loses any of its three remaining games. Jorge Garbajosa led the winners with 22 points and 11 rebounds, making 4 of his 5 three-point attempts. Dan Santiago also posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds for Unicaja, while Marcus Brown added 16 points and Berni Rodriguez 10. Tanoka Beard had 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting and 10 rebounds for Zalgiris while Darjus Lavrinovic scored 10 points for the hosts. Zalgiris led 43-36 midway through the third quarter, but it didn't last long. Brown, Garbajosa, Santiago and Pepe Sanchez combined for all points in a mammoth 5-24 run that put Unicaja fully in charge, 48-60, with under 8 minutes to go. Zalgiris never recovered, while Unicaja cruised to a well-deserved win.
Jonas Maciulis started the game at full speed, as the followed a free throw with a three-pointer, while Reggie Freeman hit a mid-range jumper for a 6-2 Zalgiris lead. Daniel Santiago stepped up with a big dunk but a red hot Maciulis answered from downtown for keep the hosts in charge, 9-4. Santiago scored again and drew Tanoka Beard's second foul, who scored in the paint immedietaly after that. Garbajosa took over with his first three-pointer and fed Marcus Brown for a fast break layup which forced a Zalgiris timeout at 11-11. Freeman fired in a jumper but Garbajosa - who else? - nailed a corner three which Sandro Nicevic followed with a close basket to give Unicaja its first lead, 13-16. Darjus Lavrinovic made a stop-and-pop jumper which Nicevic erased in the other end to fix the score at 15-18 after 10 minutes.
Beard took over with a left-handed layup which brought Zalgiris within 17-18. Unicaja now struggled in offense, as it went scoreless in the opening 3 minutes of this period until Santiago stepped up with a jump hook. Beard answered with a short jumper but Santiago dunked it in the other end. Beard kept pacing Zalgiris with another layup, as the hosts now tried a 2-3 zone defense. Garbajosa and Lavrinovic exchanged baskets while a fast break layup by Mantas Kalnietis gave Zalgiris a 25-24 edge. Unicaja tried to find answers with a timeout but Lavrinovic capped a 6-0 run which a put-back basket. Unicaja finally found a go-to guy in Garbajosa, who made 4 of 6 free throws to put his team back in charge, 27-28. Berni Rodriguez added a fast break layup to which Zalgiris call timeout, 27-30. Beard made another layup and Simonas Serapinas could him before Rodriguez scored a quick basket to make Unicaja keep a 31-32 edge at halftime.
Beard and Walter Herrmann exchanged layups after the break. Paulius Jankunas made ir with a short jumper while Vidas Ginevicius added a free throw and fed Beard for a close basket which forced Unicaja to call timeout, 38-34. Santiago tried to change things with a power layup, as Unicaja tried a zone defense which Ginevicius broke with a three. Freeman fired up the crowd with a fast break layup which gave Zalgiris its biggest margin so far, 43-36. Marcus Brown made free throws which Garbajosa followed with a fast break layup in a 0-13 run which Sanchez highlighted with an acrobatic basket. Brown scored inside and Garbajosa fired in another three to give Unicaja a 43-49 edge. Zalgiris missed as many as 7 consecutive shots until Beard stepped up with a close basket. Free throws by Sanchez and a fast break dunk by Garbajosa kept Unicaja fully in charge, 45-53, after 30 minutes.
Ginevicius set the crowd on fire with a seven-meter three but Unicaja stayed focused early in the final period. Brown followed a free throw with a fast break dunk, while Santiago scored in the low post off a Zalgiris timeout and then dunked it again to cap a 0-7 Unicaja run which made it a 12-point game, 48-60. Lavrinovic hit free throws but Garbajosa buried a three which silenced the crowd. Lavrinovic tried to change things with a dunk but Brown decided he had enough. He joined the three-point festival, then made free throws and added a dunk to seal Unicaja's win, 52-70, with under 6 minutes to go. Zalgiris now needed a miracle comeback, as Beard and Ginevicius tried to ignit one with free throws but Rodriguez hit one from downtown to keep Unicaja out of troubles. The outcome was clear and Unicaja stepped off court with a renewed ambition in this group.
Thursday, March 9, 2006