CAI Zaragoza caused a huge upset during the first day of the Copa del Rey on Thursday evening as the team defeated host club Unicaja Malaga 74-79.
The fact the Copa is being hosted in Malaga´s Palacio Martin Carpena arena suggested that the home team held a distinct advantage. That was especially the case after 10,700 spectators crammed into the Palacio to support the south coast club. However, CAI Zaragoza had a surprise in store for the home fans by downing the Euroleague team to book a Semifinal clash with Real Madrid on Saturday.
A little bit of history was made for Zaragoza as the team will play in the Semifinals for the first time in its 12 year history.
Malaga took an early lead at 5-2 much to the joy of the home fans, but it was not to last as Zaragoza responded by netting 11 points without reply to lead 5-13 with six minutes to go in the period. Niklas Caner-Medley was key to keeping Malaga in the game during the first by securing nine points throughout the 10 minutes. The hosts couldn´t capitalize on Caner-Medley´s scoring though and trailed 11-15 after Q1.
The home team started the second period in much better shape and started chipping away at the Zaragoza lead. It took four minutes of the second to do it, but Malaga reclaimed the lead at 21-20 and didn´t look back for the rest of the half. The team put together an 8-0 run to take further command of the game at 34-24 and stretched it further to 38-26 with just 60 seconds left on the first half clock. Zaragoza rallied briefly on the back of a mini 0-5 run to go in at halftime trailing by seven at 38-31.
Malaga emerged for the second half in control of the game and maintained a deficit for much of the third period. Indeed, the hosts remained seven points clear until the 27th minute, but then the wheels started to come off. The visitors started hitting the paint and collected a game changing 2-14 run that gave them a 51-56 advantage after thirty minutes of play.
Viktor Sanikidze and Damjan Rudez struck from downtown early in the fourth to put Zaragoza 58-66 with a healthy looking eight point lead. It had become clear that the away team was in the ascendency as they continued to hit baskets and keep a respectable deficit. Malaga had let a lead slip and Zaragoza had stolen the victory to progress to the Semifinals.
Damjan Rudez was 100% (4 from 4) with triples on his way to 16 points for Zaragoza, while Viktor Sanikidze was on hand with 12 points and 7 rebounds.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas recorded 18 points from the bench in the losing effort and was aided by Caner-Medley with a double-double 21 points and 10 rebounds.