Zvezda finishes season by routing Unicaja
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade completed its 7DAYS EuroCup campaign with a 105-89 victory over 2017 champion Unicaja Malaga on Tuesday night at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall. Joe Ragland paced six Zvezda scorers in double figures with 17 points, 7 assists and 4 steals as the team bowed out of the competition with a 2-4 record in the Top 16, third place in Group G and an 8-8 record for the season. Dejan Davidovac added 16 points, Stratos Perperoglou and Nemanja Nenadic netted 13 apiece, Billy Baron had 11 and Ognjen Dobric 10. For Unicaja, with entered the game knowing it would face ALBA Berlin in the quarterfinals, Kyle Wiltjer scored 18 and Jaime Fernandez 14. Unicaja placed second in the group with a 3-3 record.
Zvezda jumped in front with the game's first two scores before Sasu Salin and Wiltjer each buried threes in a 0-8 Unicaja run. Wiltjer's second triple put the visitors up 6-11. Before long Ragland took charge and turned a pair of steals into layups to bring Zvezda within 18-19. Unicaja continued to rely on outside shooting with Wiltjer and Dragan Milosavljevic each connecting from downtown to keep Unicaja in charge, but Zvezda closed the gap to 26-27 on a Davidovac triple to end the first quarter. Nenadic came off the bench and fired in a go-ahead three for the hosts. After Unicaja answered, Nenadic fueled an 8-0 run with 5 points and an assist on a Mouhammad Faye three to make it 39-33 midway through the second quarter. Fernandez narrowed the gap to 4 before Zvezda reeled off 12 unanswered points to storm into halftime with a commanding 57-41 advantage. The teams traded baskets early in the third quarter before Baron's pull-up triple put Zvezda up 64-45. Giorgi Shermadini made his presence felt in the paint as Unicaja chipped away at the deficit. Adam Waczynski nailed a three-pointer to trim the gap to 70-60. However, Zvezda scored on its next four possessions to remain comfortably ahead, 81-65, after three quarters. Fernandez came out hot for the fourth quarter and sparked a 0-7 run to bring his team within single digits. Dani Diez's steal and layup made it 84-77. Ragland came to the rescue for Zvezda with a triple and an assist to Michael Ojo. Unciaja continued to score, but only managed to trade shots with the hosts. Simanic's layup took Zvezda past the 100-point mark as the Serbian champs completed its season-ending victory.
In a pressure-free game that was essentially for protocol only, both teams played pressure-free and the offenses benefitted. Unicaja made 57.1% of its two-point shots and 47.1% of its threes. Zvezda was even better with 60.0% on its twos and 61.1% on threes. Eight players made three-pointers for each team; Unicaja's 16 triples tied for the second-most in club history.
Zvezda won the game by outperforming Unicaja in most major statistical categories. Aside from its better shooting, Zvezda outrebounded Unicaja 31-23, dished more assists (21-15), had more steals (10-8) and committed fewer turnovers (11-15).
Joe Ragland finished the season with another strong performance, tallying 21 points, 7 assists and a season-high 4 steals. He upped his assists average to 6.0 per game, which is currently second in the competition. The leader, Diante Garrett (6.1 apg.), will fall off the full season leader board soon because he only played in the regular season and will not have enough appearances to qualify by the end of the season, leaving Ragland in a strong position to claim the assists crown.
The EuroCup goes on a one-month hiatus before Unicaja returns for the quarterfinals to face ALBA Berlin. Crvena Zvezda is finished with the EuroCup for the current season and will turn its energies to domestic competitions with the hope of qualifying for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague or the EuroCup next season.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019