Unicaja flies past Maccabi, 82-68, to reach Top 16!
Unicaja Malaga recovered from its first loss of the season by vaulting into the Top 16 with a no-doubt-about it 82-68 victory over visiting Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv on Thursday. Unicaja raised its record to 6-1 and continues sharing first place in Group D with CSKA Moscow. Maccabi fell to 1-6 and is in grave danger of missing the Top 16 for the first time this century. A 20-0 run led by Nemanja Nedovic that bridged the first and second quarters put Unicaja in control of the scoreboard. The hosts led after halftime by as many as 25 points, 59-34, before Maccabi started chipping. The visitors got within 71-63 on Sylven Landesberg's three-pointer with 4:19 to play. But Will Thomas shut the door by scoring the next 9 points in a row to take Unicaja to the next round. Thomas led the winners with 20 points, 11 of them in those last 5 minutes. Mindaugas Kuzminskas followed for Unicaja with 14 points, while Richard Hendrix had a double-double of 11 and 12 rebounds and Nedovic scored 11, too. Landesberg, Jordan Farmer and Taylor Rochestie scored 13 each for Maccabi.
First Quarter: Unicaja takes the early edge
Kuzminskas went inside for his team's first points, as did Yogev Ohayon, whose drive yielded 2 free throws to tie. Ohayon fed Farmar for the game's first three-pointer and Maccabi's first lead, 2-5. It lasted only until Thomas cranked up a triple of his own for Unicaja. And when Farmar did it again for Maccabi, Unicaja went to the corner, too, for an 8-8 tie from the hand of Jamar Smith. The threes kept falling for Maccabi as Ohayon hit one, but Kuzminskas erased that with another inside basket-plus-free throw. Good hustle and a great pass by Smith got Hendrix a goal-tended basket, and after he added a free throw, Rochestie came in to bank a layup high off the glass and make the foul shot for a 14-14 tie. A parade of free throws saw Thomas, Kuzminskas and Nedovic put Unicaja back in front, 19-15, before Fran Vazquez hit an open jumper, forcing a Maccabi timeout. Nedovic scored a layup that Trevor Mbakwe matched with free throws, then Guy Pnini buried Maccabi's fourth triple from the corner to make it 23-20 . Seconds after it fell, however, Nedovic answered in kind to give Unicaja a 26-20 advantage after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Nedovic leads 17-0 run
Carlos Suarez was fouled shooting a three-pointer and buried all of his free throws to start the second quarter. Then Dani Diez joined the Unicaja scorers and Nedovic drove untouched for a layup. After a Maccabi timeout, Nedovic buried another three-pointer and suddenly it was 36-20 as Maccabi's offense and defense both stalled. Nedovic made a high-speed block before taking a seat with 11 points in less than 7 minutes. Diez added free throws and when Edwin Jackson buried a wide-open three-pointer, Unicaja had doubled Maccabi on the scoreboard, 41-20. Hendrix added 2 free throws as Maccabi kept missing shots, and even when Brian Randle came up with a monster block, he soon had to take a seat with his third foul. Finally, Farmar hit a backdoor layup for his team's first points of the quarter after 6 minutes. Sylven Landesberg followed with a triple from the corner to get Maccabi within 44-25, but Stefan Markovic got 2 points back at the free throw line for Unicaja. Farmar fed Mbakwe for a super slam, but Kuzminskas spoke next with a corner triple that made it 46-27. Layups by Landesberg and Rochestie got Maccabi closer again, 48-31, which is where the half ended.
Third quarter: Maccabi starts chipping away
Kuzminskas dropped a hook shot to open the second-half scoring and then a minute later set up Suarez for a corner three that made it 53-31. A second-chance triple from Devin Smith got Maccabi's score column ticking. Hendrix took advantage of a mismatch for Unicaja before Markovic hit a step-back shot from the lane and Kuzminskas a layup off the glass for the game's biggest lead, 59-34. Pnini's baseline jumper was followed after a while by Smith drilling another shot from downtown and Rochestie dropping free throws that lowered the difference to 59-41. A missed three-pointer by Smith let Kuzminskas go long for a layup that Rochestie answered with a big three-pointer, narrowing the gap to 61-44. After a Unicaja timeout, the hosts got an easy mid-range jumper from Thomas that Farmar matched at the other end before he lined up the last shot of the quarter, a triple, to get Maccabi as close as 63-49 after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Thomas shuts the door on Maccabi
Markovic fed Hendrix for a sweet and easy layup to open the fourth quarter, and after Landesberg answered with a tougher one for Maccabi, Smith and Hendrix did the same again at 67-51. Next, Rochestie drove and kicked to Pnini for a three-pointer and then did the same with Smith on the receiving end. Suddenly, it was a 10-point game, 67-57, with 6:15 to play. After a timeout, Mbakwe hit 1 of 2 free throws, but Hendrix fed Thomas for a layup at 69-58. Smith drove the baseline for a reverse layup on the 5-minute mark but Diez came off the bench to match him with free throws at 71-60. Landesberg blasted a triple from the corner as Maccabi kept its momentum, but Thomas answered again, this time with a killer turnaround and a drop-step layup to make it 75-63 with under 3 minutes to play. When Thomas then stepped out for a triple and, following a timeout, hit another turnaround, it was 80-63, Unicaja was on its way to the Top 16 and Maccabi's back was closer to the wall.
Thursday, November 26, 2015