Zenit edges Tofas, punches Top 16 ticket
Zenit St. Petersburg booked the final Top 16 spot from Group D by holding off Tofas Bursa 76-80 in a crucial Round 10 game on the road on Tuesday night. There were several possible scenarios that would have put Zenit through even with small-enough loss and a combination of other results in the group, but the visitors took care of business behind a big night from Drew Gordon who scored a career-high 27 points along with 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Zenit improved to 6-4 in Group D and can finish second, third or fourth, depending on other results. Tofas was eliminated after finishing the regular season with a 4-6 record. Scottie Reynolds netted 13 points, including key baskets in the fourth quarter, Sergey Karasev and Marko Simonovic scored 12 apiece, and Evgeny Voronov chipped in with 11 in victory. Raymar Morgan and Sammy Mejia scored 21 apiece for Tofas; Mejia also pulled down 9 rebounds. Kenny Kadji had 15 points and Baris Ermis collected 10 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in a losing effort.
Kadji had 6 points in the early going for Tofas, but Gordon immediately made his presence felt inside, while Voronov and Simonovic hit from long range. Gordon’s put-back made it 8-14, but Tofas allowed only one basket in the final five minutes of the opening quarter, as Morgan scored 5 points to help cut the deficit to 15-16 after 10 minutes. Gordon was everywhere at the start of the second quarter, with a put-back-plus-foul, a full-court assist, a blocked shot, and eventually a fastbreak dunk, which opened a 15-26 lead for Zenit. Mejia’s three-point play snapped a 0-10 run, but Karasev restored a double-digit lead. After Simonovic and Ermis traded triples, Simonovic added another one from downtown that made it 23-37. Before the end of the half, however, Tofas halved that deficit by stepping up on defense, while Mejia and Ermis hit from downtown. But Gordon made a last-second basket to put Zenit up 34-43 at the break.
The hosts needed less than two minutes for an 8-0 run, with Mejia and Morgan hitting a triple apiece to get within 1. A couple more baskets from Morgan put Tofas in front 46-45. Mejia strung together 7 points, including a three-point play that made it 55-50, but Gordon got to work again, scoring 8 points in the final two minutes of the quarter, including a shot-clock beating triple and a last-second close-range shot that made it 58-60 going into the final quarter. Simonovic scored for the visitors, but Morgan helped Tofas grab a 64-62 edge. But two three-pointers followed by a spinning driving layup, all from Reynolds, opened gave Zenit a 64-70 lead. Karasev’s three-pointer extended it to 67-75 with little over two minutes left. Baskets from Kadji and Peirria Henry gave Tofas hope in the final minute, but Gordon sealed the outcome with a monster dunk with 17 seconds to go to secure Zenit’s Top 16 ticket.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017