Defensive masterclass helps see off UCAM Murcia

Díaz competes with Rojas for a rebound
Díaz competes with Rojas for a rebound / Álvaro Cabrera
  • Unicaja ended the first part of the season with a comfortable 88-76 victory in front of their own fans

After the match with UCAM Murcia on Sunday, many fans left the Palacio de los Deportes with the feeling that this Unicaja side is back to its best. However, games such as the one in Seville are still recent in the memory and the doubts that some supporters have are still very much justified. But on Sunday their side gave a spirited performance to dispatch a Murcia side who are always dangerous.

The reasons behind the victory lay in the defence and the overall balance of the game. Unicaja changed the dynamic of the tie after the break when they stopped their rivals scoring for nearly five minutes. During this time they varied their play, with baskets from the three-point line as well as from their centres. This balance is what they have been lacking on many occasions this season, in which their dependence on three-pointers has frequently burdened them.

The opening exchanges of the match followed the usual script for Unicaja, with a slow start resulting in the side trailing 5-10 after five minutes. The entrance of Musli changed the flow of the game, as Unicaja started to find the Serbian to exploit the gaps in the Murcia defence. Musli allowed the side to establish themselves in the game with seven consecutive points to level the scores at 15-15 at the end of the first quarter.

The Malaga side improved their defence in the second quarter and this allowed them to play with more freedom. Díez scored a pair of baskets as Unicaja gained some breathing room with the scores at 29-22. However, Murcia rallied and Baron scored a three-pointer to put his side in front, 29-30. Despite this, the mentality of Unicaja's defence appeared to have changed for the better as they stopped Murcia from scoring in the latter stages of the half to lead 35-30 at the break.

The hosts began the second half with more energy than their opponents, with Nedovic scoring and assisting with ease to change the direction of the game. Musli was controlling the impact of Argentinian Delía and Waczynski was punishing Murcia from the three-point line. As such, the quarter ended with the scores at 66-48 and the tie all but over.

The final quarter was a dead rubber, with the hosts relaxing at the death to allow the visitors to post a more respectable score. With their 88-76 victory, the Malaga side confirmed that if they defend well, something they have seldom done this season, they will be very competitive.