A winning start (64-62)
Xavier Pascual made a winning start to his spell in charge of AXA FC Barcelona as he oversaw a close victory in the Euroleague Top 16 against Unicaja Málaga in the Palau Blaugrana on Thursday evening.
Two key factors that have been missing in recent weeks were very much in evidence as Barça had a
strong interior game and Alex Acker shone afterhe was given a role that he enjoyed as the new coach
looked to make an early impression after replacing Dusko Ivanovic this week. The players were
highly motivated after having their pride stung this term and they held on to win an emotional
enoucnter. Unicaja kept their chances alive until the final period despite going 12 points behind
at one stage.
The game began with both sides looking to find their feet, but it was Denis Marconato that
opened the scoring with a long distance shot. N'Dong then replied for the visitors before Vazquez
scored twice to put the hosts four points up. The game reamined close as Haislip scored a driving
basket and then scored the free throw, but Vazquez continued his strong showing as he added more
points to his tally. Barcelona's defence showed that they were well organised as they forced
Unicaja to see out their 24-second shooting time. Jordi Trias and Roger Grimau both scored in the
closing moment to give the home team a 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Maintaining the advantage
Unicaja started the second period looking slightly brighter with kus registering the first
points but Marconato continued to show a keen eye as he added more points to the Blaugrana's total.
Kus then sank a three-pointer but Marconato and Trias looked lively for Barça and pushed forward
before Lakovic netted two free throws and a three-pointer from the top to push Pascual's side 12
points into the lead (30-18). Hailsip reduced the arrears before Gabriel came back again and layups
by Lakovic were answered with Bojan Popovic and Haislip netting triples for Unicaja. Lakovic then
sank four free throws to keep Barça comfortably in front (40-31).
The visitors apeared to have learned their lesson in the third period as they looked to stop
the central Barça players from creating so much as they themselves continued to find the basket
from distance. Kus assumed the responsibility as the team's scorer and was well supported by Berni
Rodríguez, Haislip and Gabriel. Despite that, Basile ended the third quarter with a buzzer beating
shot that left Barça with a six point advantage (53-47).
Despite the balance that the visitors' had finally been able to find, their defence was
unable to anything to stop the inspired Acker as he scored a triple and two two-pointers. As
tension mounted Barça moved two points clear before Málaga were given the chance to draw level, but
they missed both free shots.
AXA FC Barcelona: Lakovic (14), Basile (), Ilyasova (-), Marconato (6), Vázquez
(10) –initial fiveth-, Trias (6), Acker (9), Neal (-), Sánchez (4), Kasun (4) and Grimau
Unicaja Málaga: Popovic (5), Welsch (4), Jiménez (-), Haislip (15), Ndong (6)
–initial fiveth-, Rodríguez (8), Kus (11), Gabriel (9), Santiago (2), Castle (-) and
Partials: 17-9 / 23-22 / 13-16 / 11-15
Referees: Lamonica (ITA), Ziemblicki (POL) and Chambon (FRA).