Unicaja fend off AEK, secure homecourt advantage in Quarter-Finals
ATHENS (Greece) - In the final meeting between Unicaja and AEK in the Round of 16, it was the Malaga team who came out on top on the road, 75-65, to take homecourt advantage in the Quarter-Finals of the Basketball Champions League.
This loss by AEK ended their four-game winning streak in the BCL.
Turning point: AEK never led in the first half and trailed by as many as 7 points, but they were able to cut their deficit to 39-38 at halftime. The game remained close throughout the third quarter and AEK tied up the score but still couldn't grab a lead, as Unicaja held a four-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
AEK once again tied the game at 61, but Unicaja's 12-4 run put them up by 8 points at a crucial part of the game with only about one minute remaining.
Game heroes: No player for Unicaja scored more than 15 points, but they had balanced scoring with five players recording at least 9 points. Tyson Carter scored a team-high 15 points off the bench, while Dario Brizuela added 13 points, 3 assists and knocked down 3-of-4 three-pointers in only 13 minutes.
Center Yankuba Sima chipped in 10 points and a team-high 6 rebounds off the bench. These three players combined to make 14 of the team's 28 total made shots from the field.
Stats don't lie: AEK committed 13 turnovers and Unicaja made good use of those turnovers with a 20-9 advantage in points from turnovers. Unicaja also had the edge in total rebounds (37-32) as well as on the offensive glass (14-8), which led to 14 second chance points.
AEK also struggled from three-point range, connecting on just 3-of-19 shots.
Bottom line: Unicaja finish in first place in the Round of 16 Group K with a record of 5-1 and will have homecourt advantage in their best-of-three Quarter-Finals series. AEK, meanwhile, finish 4-2 in the group and were led in defeat by Akil Mitchell who finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists.
In the other game from Group K, Limoges CSP ended their 2022-23 BCL campaign on a high note in front of their home fans and picked up their first win in the Round of 16 thanks to a 69-60 overtime victory over Galatasaray Nef. Galatasaray finished the Round of 16 at 2-4, while Limoges went 1-5.
The game went to overtime tied at 57 and Limoges outscored Galatasaray 12-3 in the extra five minutes. Limoges' Bryce Jones and Desi Rodriguez both finished with 13 points and as a team, Limoges dished out 20 assists.
Despite the loss, Galatasaray's Tyrus McGee, who scored 10 points tonight, moved into sixth place on the BCL's all-time scoring list (751) and now only trails Miro Bilan (758), David Holston (782), Giorgi Shermadini (835) and Vojtech Hruban (996).
"It was a tough game. We knew it would be a tough game, tough crowd here at AEK. The fans get into the game a little bit and they were going to make it hard on us, so we stuck together for the whole 40 minutes of the game, and we came out with the win." - Tyson Carter, Unicaja
"I think that we controlled a big part of the game. At the end of the game, I think that we did better than AEK in terms of fresh legs. Being honest, I think that the injured players that AEK missed tonight was too much for them. Janis Strelnieks is maybe one of the best sixth man of the competition so far." - Ibon Navarro, Head Coach Unicaja
"Unicaja played very well together. Just came up a bit short tonight. Sometimes that happens and I'm proud of the way the guys fought. I thought we left it all on the court, and sometimes you just end up short." - Akil Mitchell, AEK
"It's never easy to lose some really important pieces of the team and be able to adjust within a few days, especially when you have to play against such a good team as Unicaja is. For us, good feelings should exist. Now we have to regroup, try to see how we can do better, how we can find a little bit of rhythm. I hope that Kenny [Williams] will come back as soon as possible." - Ilias Kantzouris, Head Coach AEK