Unicaja fends off Joventut comeback for first win
Unicaja Malaga captured its first victory in the Top 16 by fending off a Joventut Badalona comeback attempt for a 90-84 win. Deon Thompson scored all 23 of his points in the first three quarters while Dario Brizuela had 14 points, Adam Waczynski and Carlos Suarez both picked up 10 points and Jaime Fernandez collected 10 points and 10 assists for his first double-double as Unicaja improved to 1-1 in Group H. Nenad Dimitrijevic tallied 16 points and 4 assists to lead Joventut, which lost to fall to 1-1 despite cutting a 22-point third-quarter deficit down to 5 points in the closing minutes. Alen Omic scored 13 points, Klemen Prepelic was held to 12 points and Kerem Kanter added 10 points in defeat.
Thompson had a huge start to the game with a three-pointer, put-back dunk and a baseline dunk in scoring 11 points in the first 5 minutes as the lead grew to 17-7. Luke Harangody knocked down a three-pointer and Dimitrijevic scored a tough layup for Joventut, but Unicaja led 22-12 after 10 minutes. Prepelic opened the second quarter with a layup for his first points, but Unicaja surged further ahead with an 11-3 run as Suarez nailed a triple and Brizuela had a three-point play and a three for a 33-17 advantage. Joventut punched back with a 3-12 spurt including 6 straight points from Kanter as Joventut pulled to within 36-29. The home side finished the first half strong with the final 6 points, including a Thompson three just before the final buzzer and a 44-31 advantage.
Joventut came out of the break with the first 6 points to cut the gap to 44-37. Unicaja was not impressed in answering with a 17-2 run - thanks to Thompson scoring 9 points, including a three-pointer and a four-point play for a 61-39 cushion. Joventut would not go down without a fight with Nikos Zisis and Dimitrijevic both converting three-point plays and Prepelic hitting a three for Joventut in a 1-13 surge to make it 62-52. Unicaja got back into rhythm and led 66-54 after 30 minutes. Arturs Zagars and Prepelic started the fourth quarter with scores to get Joventut within 66-58. Unicaja shrugged off the challenge with a 7-0 run including 5 straight points from Axel Toupane for a 73-58 advantage. Zisis drained a triple at the other end and then Dimitrijevic worked to get Joventut close with 10 points. Conor Morgan’s free throws cut the deficit to 84-79. Suarez, however, provided the dagger with 48 seconds on a dunk to make it 88-81.
While Deon Thompson did not play the fourth quarter, Jaime Fernandez was fantastic all game with 10 points to go along with 2 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals in keeping the Unicaja offense moving along.
More production from Brizuela
Dario Brizuela continues to be a great addition to Unicaja since his arrival from Estudiantes. He came into the game averaging 11 points and the 25-year-old guard collected 14 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal against Joventut.
Unicaja connected on 22-of-35 two-pointers while fouling out both of Joventut’s main playmakers Nikos Zisis and Arturs Zagars and forcing 18 Joventut turnovers.
Unicaja takes on its next team from the Spanish ACB in facing MoraBanc Andorra on the road on January 21. Joventut returns home and will host Tofas Bursa on January 22.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020