Zenit beats PAOK to go top of the group
Zenit St. Petersburg took care of business in its Eurocup home opener, defeating PAOK Thessaloniki 76-66 on Wednesday. Win improved Zenit to 2-0 record in sole possession of the first place in Group E, while PAOK dropped to 1-1. Zabian Dowdell had 17 points for Zenit, Evgeny Valiev added 11 points, while Janis Timmas had an all-round effort with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Kyle Landry pulled down 11 rebounds in victory for Zenit which never trailed after the second quarter. For the visitors, William Hatcher scored all of his 19 points in the second half, and was the only scorer in double figures. Darko Balaban contributed with 9 points and 6 rebounds, and Kostas Vasileiadis netted 8 with 4 assists.
PAOK had a better start to the game, as couple buckets from Nikola Markovic and a triple and a steal from Vasileiadis helped the visitors to 4-11 lead. But Valiev got the hosts going with a pair of offensive boards and a pair of close-range baskets, while Timma had a three-point play that helped Zenit to 14-13. Ryan Toolson had an assists and a jumper for Zenit's 18-15 after 10 minutes, but Balaban scored a put-back before Vasileiadis and Evangelos Margaritis each knocked down a shot from the distance for 22-23. Teams traded blows and leads in the second quarter until Dowdell gave Zenit a push, and Timma converted a fast break for 32-29 halftime lead.
Two baskets from Landry in the opening minute of the second half made it a 7-point contest. Hatcher replied for PAOK with seven consecutive points for 36-36, but Artem Vikhorov got Zenit going again. Andrey Koshcheev and Toolson each drained a three-pointer, and Timma's basket gave Zenit its first double-digit lead, 50-40. Hatcher scored 5 more points for the visitors, and a buzzer-beating three from Georgios Dedas cut the margin to 56-50 after 30 minutes. Uros Duvnjak hit a triple in the first minute of the fourth, and Hatcher remained hot, getting PAOK within 58-57. But Vikhorov and Valiev gave Zenit some breathing room, with the latter player also drawing fourth personal foul from Hatcher for a three-point play and 63-57 with 6 minutes to go. Valiev added a put-back to the tally for 67-57. Hatcher returned to the floor and scored for 70-62, but that’s as close as PAOK got. Dowdell scored 6 more points down the stretch to keep the margin at 10 points, and save Zenit from drama.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015