UNICS is first into quarterfinals
UNICS Kazan romped past Mornar Bar 86-61 on Wednesday evening at Basket Hall Kazan to storm into the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals. UNICS led from start to finish in grabbing its fourth straight victory to remain atop Group H with a 4-0 record. The hosts jumped out to a 9-0 lead, went ahead by 20 at halftime and the margin peaked at 28 in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Canaan led the UNICS attack with 14 points, Okaro White tallied 12 points, John Holland scored 11 and Jordan Theodore dished 7 assists. Nemanja Gordic paced the Mornar attack with 14 points, Johnny Hamilton posted 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in his debut with the team and Isaiah Whitehead had 11 points and 5 assists before exiting the game late with an apparent shoulder injury.
Holland controlled the opening tip and dunk just mere seconds into the game. Hamilton made his presence felt inside with a block, but Mornar twice missed from close range and then committed consecutive turnovers before a Holland three completed a 9-0 UNICS start. Whitehead broke the ice for the visitors with a three-pointer only to see White match him at the other end. Kenny Gabriel's three trimmed the deficit to 14-10. A three by Canaan and a put-back by Dmitrii Uzinskii helped UNICS take its first double-digit lead, 22-11. Uzinskii added a triple before free throws by Gordic got Mornar within 27-17 after 10 minutes. A Taylor Smith dunk and Whitehead free throws gave Mornar hope, but UNICS responded with the next 7 points, including a Jamar Smith triple. A timeout did little to change the momentum as Brown and Wolters scored to stretch the margin to 38-21. Despite Gordic's best efforts, Wolters's triple made it a 20-point game. Hamilton impressed with a few dunks, but another three by Canaan made it 51-31 at the break.
The UNICS lead only grew as Holland began the second half with a three. The pace slowed with each team scoring just twice in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter. Mornar was able to close the gap to 58-41 through free throws by Gordic and Nemanja Vranes. UNICS finished the third quarter on a 9-0 run, which Artem Klimenko completed, to lead 67-41. Evgeny Kolesnikov's floater to start the fourth quarter gave UNICS its biggest lead, 69-41. The teams traded points after that with the outcome essentially decided. Hamilton played well with a pair of blocks and basket-plus-foul as Mornar made the final score a little more respectable, 80-59. Whitehead left the game late with an apparent shoulder injury in the closing minutes.
Back in the round of eight
With this win UNICS qualified for the quarterfinals for the fourth season in a row and the 10th time in its 14 seasons in the competition. It has reached the semifinals five times – most recently in 2019. A two-time EuroCup finalist, UNICS captured the crown in 2011.
Milestones for Smith
Jamar Smith became the 14th player to appear in 100 career EuroCup games when he came on in the second quarter and the star guard moved into third place on the career scoring charts with his first basket, a three-pointer, which took him past Errick McCollum. Smith finished with 8 points, giving him 1,228 for his career and putting him well within striking distance of Rafa Martinez (1,240) for second place.
UNICS dominated the glass with 44 rebounds to Mornar's 26. The hosts used that advantage to score 23 second-chance points, while Mornar had just 2. Three-point shooting also helped tell the story of the game; UNICS made 12 of 27 (44.4%), while Mornar shot 3 for 21 (14.3%).
When EuroCup action resumes next month, both teams will be at home for their Top 16, Round 5 games. Mornar hosts Herbalife Gran Canaria on Tuesday, March 2. UNICS faces MoraBanc Andorra the following evening.
Wednesday, February 3, 2021