05 October, 2021
15 May, 2022
08/03/2022
Game Report
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Impressive debut by Cameron Oliver earns Unicaja tiebreaker over Cluj

CLUJ NAPOCA (Romania) - Unicaja had their mid-season struggles, but with Ibon Navarro coming in as their coach and Cameron Oliver coming up big in his first BCL game, the Spaniards looked like group favorites, earning a win on the road in Romania.

U-BT Cluj Napoca put up a fight, but a strong final quarter by Unicaja set the final score at 86-70. Unicaja not only won the game, they erased their six-point deficit from the first matchup to take the lead in the group. Even with a defeat, Romanian champions got their standing ovation from their biggest attendance in BCL so far.

Turning point: Unicaja had the upper hand in the second half, but the hosts got the crowd excited again when Elijah Stewart made it a one-possession game at 63-66 inside the final five minutes.

Unicaja needed a hero and found one in Cameron Oliver, their newest arrival. The forward knocked down a triple while being fouled, stunning the crowd and killing all of Cluj's momentum.

Once Alberto Diaz scored his only three-pointer of the game, the scoreboard said 65-78 with less than two minutes remaining, meaning Unicaja got the double win, taking the game, getting over the six point margin from the game in Malaga.

Game hero: Cameron Oliver looked unstoppable off the bench, 19 points, 9 rebounds, +21 with him on the floor. Oliver is still only 25, and just started his second European experience after playing eight games for Ironi Ness Ziona in Israel in 2019-20.

He then moved to Australia, then tried his luck with the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks, before booking flights to Malaga for the rest of the season. He will be a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor.

 

Stats don't lie: It was a clash of styles, with Unicaja allowing only 96.3 points per 100 possessions before this game, making them the toughest defensive team of the BCL. U-BT Cluj Napoca were the only team to score 90 or more in four BCL games this season, but defense won this round.

Unicaja held Cluj to 37 percent shooting from the field, limiting them to 18 assists and forcing 15 turnovers. The road team had 44, 22 and 9 in those respective categories.

Bottom line: With Prometey withdrawing from the competition, U-BT Cluj Napoca's big win over the Ukrainian champions went to waste, as all results were nullified. Stefan Bircevic had 17 points, Elijah Stewart got 12 of his 13 before the break.

 

Prometey's withdrawal opened the door for Unicaja to steal the first spot with just one game remaining for both of these teams, both of them having to travel to Belgium to face Filou Oostende. Belgian champs have their math, too, with a pair of wins, they could be in the Quarter-Finals, too.

They said:

"I feel like we executed the game plan really well. At times we had mess-ups, but we really helped each other out, when one man was down, we had a lot of team defense in support, and we just needed to win. I'm still new to being here, coach is trying to explain it to me as much as possible, but I knew coming into the game that (Cluj) were undefeated in this arena. And towards the end of the game, I turned to their coaches and said 'you're now undefeated no more,' (laughs). They really have a great team, couple of my friends told me they watched them this season and they play excellent basketball, so I'm glad we came in and got the win." - Cameron Oliver, Unicaja

"We knew that if we get in the game and with the rotation from the bench, players bringing energy we could have better chances to win, and that's what happened. We struggled in the second quarter because we misunderstood what we had to do against their aggressiveness. We had many turnovers, long rebounds that allowed them to play in the open court, that's why our 7-0 run to close the half was important, to stay in the game, to go to the locker room with good feelings. In the second half, we did our job, stayed solid, controlled the rebounds. In the last six minutes, they didn't have energy to compete with our defense." - Unicaja head coach Ibon Navarro

"Thanks for all the people who came to the game to support us. We tried showing our best face, but this is basketball. We need to look forward and prepare for the next game against Oostende, we're still fighting for top eight." - Stefan Bircevic, U-BT Cluj Napoca

"Tough game, we played against a really good team. It was a close game until the last four minutes, then we allowed them offensive rebounds and second chance points. They made a 12-point difference in the last four minutes, that's the story of this game. It was a game of runs, it was a close game, but those last four minutes were deadly for us." - U-BT Cluj Napoca head coach Mihai Silvasan