Unicaja came out on top in a fierce battle that has become synonymous with their fixtures against Barcelona in the last few decades. This was a match for the true fans. A duel charged with emotion, where neither side could pull away from the other, in front of a packed crowd at the Palacio.
The Malaga side did not surrender, even though they found themselves with the match seemingly lost at the end of the forty minutes despite having led throughout. However, a situation that you would only see in basketball saved them. Time was up, the Catalan side were leading by three at 75-78, and the referees awarded three free throws to Fogg after Rice committed a foul. It was a controversial call, but it rewarded a team that did not deserve to lose. The American did not disappoint. He scored all three free throws to force five minutes of overtime, in which he and his teammates took the initiative to win.
Fogg has scored 60 points in two games, with 31 against Buducnost on the Wednesday before last and 29 last weekend against Barcelona. This is an incredible feat in basketball. Having a player of this quality, with others around him supporting well, allows fans to dream and there is no doubt that those who were there to witness this exhibition will do just that. After his period of adjustment, he has become the new hero of the Carpena.
It was a hard going affair, with two halves characterised by the defence. Unicaja came out in their usual fast fashion to attempt to prevent Barcelona from settling into their favoured style of game, where the play is slow and few points are scored. As such, after freeing themselves from their dependence on Musli, the side found, through Fogg, Waczynski and Suárez, the way to open up the first gap in the scoreboard. The first quarter ended 19-15, with the away side noticeably uncomfortable.
The presence of N'Diaye at the heart of the hosts' defence proved to be a problem for the visitors, for he continuously restrained his opposition centres. With his own hoop protected, Fogg started his performance, scoring ten consecutive points during the second quarter to give his side a lead of 29-23. These was the best period of the game for Unicaja, who were too much for their opponents. A three-pointer from Díaz extended their lead and only an absurd foul from Díez prevented them from taking a bigger advantage into the second half: 36-29.
The break brought about a completely new tie. Defensive rigour vanished to be replaced by an open game in which both sides were scoring with ease. This new style of play favoured Unicaja, for their attacking repertoire is larger and more varied. The Malaga side seemed to find an extra gear in terms of intensity and, with the scores at 56-49, the Barcelona coach was force to call a timeout. However, the pace of the game produced errors from the home side which, against a side such as Barcelona, will always be punished. Two scores from Koponen in quick succession left the match in the balance going into the final quarter, with the scores at 58-55.
Barcelona improved in defence and the game returned to the hard going style of the first half, in which points came from errors rather than attacking prowess. Unicaja entered a rough patch, without a basket in four minutes, to allow Barcelona to lead 63-64 in the 36th minute.
With just 36 seconds to go, Vezenkov scored a three-pointer to give the away side a four-point cushion. The emotion of the game seemed to get to Fogg, who missed a free throw apiece from two separate fouls. With 15 seconds to go, Perperoglou had the chance to put the game beyond reach, but he too missed from the free-throw line. Unicaja took advantage and, with the game all but over, Fogg was fouled. He stepped up to hit the mark with all three of his shots to take the game to overtime at 78-78.
Extra time could not have started better for Unicaja, as they took an early lead. Baskets were few and far between in a match that was decided from the free-throw line. Fogg succeeded in keeping his side ahead as they extended their lead, eventually triumphing 95-89.