Lokomotiv holds off Cedevita's late charge
In a clash of Top 16-bound teams, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar registered its fourth consecutive win by holding off visiting Cedevita Zagreb 80-76 in a hard-fought game on Wednesday night. Lokomotiv improved to 8-1 and remained in sole possession of first place in Group B, while Cedevita saw its three-game winning streak snapped. The visitors dropped to 5-4 and will go into the Top 16 from third place. Mateusz Ponitka paced the winners with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Jacob Pullen netted 21 points and Justin Cobbs had 20 for Cedevita.
The teams set up the defensive intensity from the start, with baskets far and between. Cobbs had a runner and a jumper that helped Cedevita to a 7-8 lead, but Lokomotiv finished the quarter with an 8-0 run and took control behind baskets from Ponitka and Dmitry Kulagin. A triple from Dmitry Khvostov opened a 22-12 lead early in the second quarter. Pullen scored from long range and close range for Cedevita, but Dorell Wright hit 3 consecutive triples to keep Lokomotiv at 31-19 before a three-point play from Vitaly Fridzon helped the hosts take a 38-27 advantage into halftime. Pullen nailed back-to-back three-pointers in the early going of the third quarter, but Lokomotiv found its offensive rhythm and fastbreak baskets from McLean and Ponitka opened a 50-37 margin. Cook and Cobbs helped the visitors get within 7 late in the third quarter and the score was 59-50 through 30 minutes. Ponitka and Trevor Lacey combined to score 8 points early in the fourth to reopen a 13-point advantage, but threes from Jakov Mustapic and Pullen got Cedevita within 68-62. The visitors continued their charge and a pair of jumpers from Cobbs got them within 73-71 before a fastbreak layup by Cook cut it to 74-73 going into the final minute. But Lokomotiv pulled down couple big offensive boards and McLean and Ponitka made a pair of free throws each as Lokomotiv prevailed.
Loko digs deep on defense
Cedevita entered this contest with a three-game winning streak during which it averaged 98 points per game. But Lokomotiv showcased its defense to deny Cedevita from carrying over any of that offensive momentum. The hosts held Cedevita in the first half to 1-for-11 three-point shooting and only 3 assists while forcing 5 turnovers and holding the visitors to 27 points.
Three-point tale of two halves
In that first half, Lokomotiv built a lead it never relinquished also thanks to making 5 triples on 6 attempts. Dorell Wright was 3 for 3 from long range before halftime. Cedevita made 5 of its 10 three-point attempts in the second half, which helped it rally back.
Movers and shakers
Lokomotiv’s Jamel McLean and Dorell Wright each had 11 points and 4 rebounds with McLean also dishing 4 assists. JaJuan Johnson collected 10 points plus 8 rebounds in the victory. Elgin Cook scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and also finished with 6 rebounds in the losing effort.
Lokomotiv celebrated playing its 100th game in the competition with a brief pre-game ceremony. At the tip-off, Lokomotiv’s point guard Dmitry Khvostov became only the sixth player with 80 starts in competition history, and with his 123rd appearance, Khvostov moved into third place all-time.
In the final regular season round next week, Lokomotiv will travel to face ALBA Berlin for a game in which the winner will claim first place in Group B. Cedevita will wrap up its regular season by hosting Tofas Bursa.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018