17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
11 Tyson Carter (UNI)
Game Report
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Unicaja shoot lights out in second half, reach maiden BCL Final

BELGRADE (Serbia) - Unicaja could not buy a triple in the first half on Friday but will play in the Basketball Champions League title game for the first time in their history after hitting 11 triples in the second half to see off UCAM Murcia in the Semi-Finals, and set up an all-Spanish Final against Lenovo Tenerife.

The Andalucian side prevailed 80-74, making the fans in green extremely loud in the Belgrade Arena. The Final matchup will be the second time that teams from the same country face off in the championship game, the first one being Lenovo Tenerife against BAXI Manresa in 2022.

Turning point:
Unicaja missed all six of their shots from beyond the arc in the first half, but came back with a stellar third quarter, making 6 three-pointers across ten minutes to take control of the game.

The two laws of team sports were quite evident the rest of the way: (1) confidence is contagious, as seven different players knocked down a triple for coach Ibon Navarro, and (2) lack of confidence is even more contagious, as UCAM Murcia could not buy a bucket and went from +11 to -10.

When they did put a run together with Howard Sant-Roos cutting the gap to one point late in the game, Unicaja found another similar response. Back-to-back three-pointers by Tyler Kalinoski and Tyson Carter to avoid any sort of a dramatic finish in Belgrade.

Game hero: Tyson Carter is made for moments like these. He was the MVP of the Copa del Rey last season, but he struggled at the BCL Final Four in Malaga in May 2023. Fast forward to Belgrade, he's already up to 14 points in a single game, after collecting a total of 15 points in two Final Four games last season.

Carter made all three of his shots from deep, and timed them to perfection, too. Honorable mention goes to Kalinoski, who had 10 points in 17 minutes, but Unicaja were a +13 team with him on the floor.

Stats don't lie: Both of these teams take a lot of pride in being 12-deep, but Unicaja's bench stepped up big time in the Semi-Finals. They owned a 42-27 edge in points from the bench, more than enough to get that much needed impulse from the second unit.

Bottom line: UCAM are still not done, and could repeat their biggest success in the BCL if they win the Third-Place Game on Sunday, facing Peristeri bwin. Marko Todorovic scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half, Rodions Kurucs with 12 and Dylan Ennis with 10 were the only other players in double figures for coach Sito Alonso.

Unicaja will play their fourth major international competition Final, after winning the FIBA Korac Cup in 2001, and finishing as runner up in 2000, and winning the EuroCup in 2017. Add the 2024 Basketball Champions League title game to that list.

They said:

"I saw them playing zone, coach threw me in, I had figured I would probably get a good look. Just like any other shot, I expected it to go in." - Tyler Kalinoski on his clutch three-pointer

"I'm very proud of my team, but it was not enough. We came here to beat Unicaja, and I feel we dominated like 75 percent of the game. In the first half we avoided their three-point shots, but we said before the game that our win depends on their three-point shooting, and they made 11 of their 19 shots in the last 20 minutes. I have to say, for me the key was when Nihad Dedovic made the three-pointer of the glass, the dynamic of the game changed completely." - Sito Alonso, UCAM Murcia head coach

"UCAM Murcia played a great game. Their defensive performance in the first half is the explanation on why we struggled, they played with great energy, super physically, trying to limit the creation of our three-point attempts. We were not able to run, we didn't have rhythm. In the second half, they scored 4-of-11 from two-point range, allowing us to run and find players connected to the game like Kalinoski and Carter. That changed the energy of the game. When you're struggling, it tastes better." - Ibon Navarro, Unicaja head coach

"I told the guys I had a feeling we beat two teams tonight, UCAM Murcia and Unicaja Malaga. We beat ourselves, our mind, that spirit that we still had deep inside, so we had to beat two teams, and it was not easy." - Navarro on beating the ghosts of the 2023 Final Four