Jackson leads Unicaja to big home win
Unicaja Malaga got off to a strong start in the Top 16 by downing Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 70-62 at home in Group E on Tuesday. Edwin Jackson scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the winners. Mindaugas Kuzminskas added 15, while Richard Hendrix had 13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals for Unicaja. Semih Erden led Darussafaka with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Erden led a 0-6 opening run that sent Darussafaka to a 14-16 edge after 10 minutes. A layup by Marcus Slaughter soon gave the guests an 18-26 margin, but Hendrix and Jamar Smith brought Unicaja within 29-32 at halftime. Kuzminskas stepped up after the break and got help from Jackson and Hendrix to give Unicaja a 54-47 margin late in the third quarter. Three-pointers by Jamon Gordon and Milko Bjelica brought Darussafaka within 54-53 after 30 minutes. Jackson had 7 points in a 10-0 run that sealed the outcome, 64-53, as Darussafaka never recovered.
First quarter: Visitors start strong
Unicaja head coach Joan Plaza surprised everyone by starting playmaker Alberto Diaz for the first time in his short Euroleague career. Luke Harangody got Darussafaka going with a jumper which Erden followed with a layup for. Erden kept pacing the guests with a two-handed dunk to cap a 0-6 opening run, before Kuzminskas split free throws. Hendrix stepped up with a layup and Jamar Smith bettered Mehmet Yagmur's driving basket with a bomb from downtown to make it 6-8. Kuzminskas took over with a power basket off the baseline, but Yagmur did better with a corner triple. Carlos Suarez finished a three-chance Unicaja offense with a layup, but Reggie Redding answered from downtown for a 10-14 Darussafaka lead. Kuzminskas and Fran Vazquez hit free throws to tie it at 14-14. Scottie Wilbekin took over with a driving layup to put Darussafaka back ahead, 14-16, after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Unicaja battles, Darussafaka stays ahead
Wilbekin hit a stop-and-pop jumper early in the quarter and Erden dunked again to boost the visitors' margin to 14-20. Unicaja was held scoreless for more than two minutes until Jackson made free throws. The hosts tried a new frontline with Will Thomas and Hendrix together. Thomas took over with an alley-oop slam but Emir Preldzic answered with a wild driving layup and Gordon set an 18-24 Darussafaka margin. Slaughter scored around the basket, but Hendrix answered with consecutive layups to get the crowd involved at 22-26. Hendrix kept pacing Unicaja with another layup, but Gordon answered with a close basket. Thomas shined with a jumper off the dribble. Ender Arslan split free throws and a three-point play by Luke Harangody gave Darussafaka a 26-32 margin. A buzzer-beating triple by Smith fixed the halftime score at 29-32.
Third quarter: Darussafaka keeps all options open
Hendrix downed a three-pointer soon after the break and a corner jumper by Kuzminskas gave Unicaja its first lead, 34-32. Erden split foul shots and a corner three-pointer by a red-hot Kuzminskas boosted the hosts' lead to 37-33. Darussafaka kept struggling to score until Erden stepped up with a put-back layup. Hendrix dunked and even after Harangody finished a two-chance Darussafaka offense with a jump hook, Nemanja Nedovic struck from downtown for a 42-37 Unicaja lead. Kuzminskas hit another three-pointer, but Erden scored again and free throws by Harangody kept the guests within 45-41. Kuzminskas and Wilbekin exchanged foul shots and another layup by Erden brought Darussafaka as close as 47-45. Jackson fired in one from beyond the arc and a fast break layup by Dani Diez prompted the visitors to stop the game at 52-45. Preldzic and Jackson made free throws, but back-to-back three-pointers by Gordon and Bjelica brought Darussafaka within 54-53.
Fourth quarter: Jackson takes over and leads Unicaja to victory
Jackson shined with a driving layup early in the quarter, as Darussafaka was held scoreless for more than three minutes. Meanwhile, a hustle play by Nedovic allowed Jackson to strike from downtown and ignite the crowd at 59-53. Unicaja kept collecting steals and did not allow Darussafaka to find the way to the basket. Thomas joined the three-point shootout to force head coach Oktay Mahmuti to stop the game at 62-53. Jackson took over with a one-handed dunk that made it a double-digit game. Redding buried a mid-range jumper and a tip-in by Erden gave Darussafaka hope at 64-57. The visitors struggled to score when it mattered most; they netted just 4 points in eight minutes. A three-pointer by Jackson sealed the outcome at 67-57 in the next-to-last minute. Darussafaka kept trying, but Unicaja was able to celebrate a well-deserved home win.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015