Defence leads the way to the EuroCup quarter finals

Nedovic embraces Díaz, one of the key players of the match.
Nedovic embraces Díaz, one of the key players of the match. / Ñito Salas
  • The impressive defensive work from Alberto Díaz changed the course of the game as Unicaja defeated Cedevita to go top of their Eurocup group

Veljko Mrsic, the former Unicaja player and current coach of Croatian side Cedevita, would undoubtedly have highlighted certain players to watch before Wednesday's game. Nedovic, Fogg, Musli..., the usual danger men within the Malaga squad. What he could not have predicted was that the match winner would come in the form of Malaga-born Alberto Díaz who, despite scoring only three points, was inscrutable in defence and crucial in helping his side swing the momentum of the game in their favour.

It was by no means a stand-out performance from Unicaja but it comes with considerable value. Victory against Cedevita represents an important step towards progression to the quarter finals, with the side winning both games so far in the Top-16, putting them top of their group. This, combined with Valencia's victory over Alba Berlin, puts the two Spanish clubs as front runners to take the two qualification spots for the next round.

Despite winning by a comfortable margin, the hosts did not make it easy for themselves. There was a great deal of nervous energy coming from the stands, especially after the poor performance in Seville and the fact that Unicaja found themselves 8-15 down midway through the first quarter. The home side recovered but were still trailing 13-17 after ten minutes.

Percentages from three-pointers were not bad, primarily thanks to Waczynski, but the problem lay in the fact that Cedevita were scoring with relative ease past a passive defence.

This changed in the latter stages of the half with the entrance of Alberto Díaz, who joined Fogg, Nedovic, Brooks and Suárez on court. With Nedovic spearheading the majority of the attacking play, Díaz and Suárez were free to plug the defensive gaps, which they did with notable success. As such, Unicaja overcame their poor start to head into the break leading 36-33, following Díaz's three-pointer in the final seconds.

Plaza opted to maintain the quintet for the second half, who were working well as a unit. Despite the intentions of Boatright and James, the momentum of the match was well and truly in favour of the hosts, who limited their opponents to just ten points in the third quarter to lead 52-43.

Waczynski was reintroduced to provide more attacking threat and he did exactly that with two more three-pointers, taking his tally to five from six for the game. Despite this, the Croatian side began to mount a comeback, bringing the scoreline to within four points at 59-55. However, Plaza's team kept their composure and managed the game well to secure a valuable 73-59 victory.