UNICS beats Rytas, clinches quarterfinals spot
UNICS Kazan protected its home-court with a hard-fought 82-69 win over Rytas Vilnius on Wednesday night and got the help it needed to clinch a place in the quarterfinals. UNICS improved to 3-2 in Group G and then qualified for the quarterfinals when AS Monaco defeated Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul a little bit later. Rytas dropped to 2-3 and was eliminated by Monaco's win. UNICS led for almost the entire game, but Rytas kept it close until late in the fourth quarter when Alex Tyus sparked a final push by the hosts, before Jamar Smith and Errick McCollum iced the game. Smith netted 24 points on 6-for-7 three-point shooting. Tyus had 13 points and 6 rebounds, McCollum finished with 12 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds and Evgeny Kolesnikov scored 11 in a winning effort. McCollum took his career tally to 1,205 points in the EuroCup, which is third-best in competition history. Cameron Bairstow and Pako Cruz scored 14 points apiece, while Terrell Holloway and Eimantas Bendzius each scored 11 points in a losing effort.
The teams traded blows in the early going. Bairstow had a good role inside and Cruz scored 6 points for Rytas, while Tyus scored twice inside for the hosts. Triples from Jamil Wilson and Smith helped UNICS to a 16-11 lead, but Evaldas Kairys scored twice inside to make it 18-17 after 10 minutes. Smith nailed another triple to open the second quarter and Kolesnikov sank a second-chance three-pointer of his own before baskets from Smith and Raymar Morgan extended the margin to 30-20. Bairstow and Cruz kept the visitors in range, combining for 8 points to get within 33-28, but Smith hit another triple, and the hosts stretched the lead to double figures again with help from McCollum and Tyus, 42-32. The visitors scored the final 6 points of the half, with a Mindaugas Girdziunas corner three-pointer - the first for Rytas in the game, making it 42-38 at halftime.
Smith needed just 49 seconds in the third quarter to hit 2 triples and extend the lead back to 10 points. Rytas kept in touch through Bairstow, who strung together 7 points and had a tip-in to cut it to 50-47. But McCollum nailed a second-chance three-pointer to keep UNICS ahead and the hosts took a 57-50 into the final quarter. UNICS got couple more threes, one apiece from Kolesnikov and Smith, but Holloway strung together 7 points to get his side within 63-59. Tyus replied with a pair of put-back dunks and, after a jumper from Marek Blazevic, Kolesnikov hit from long range and McCollum banked a runner to push the lead back to 10 points, 73-63 with 2:24 to go. If there was any doubt, Smith erased it with a jumper and a fastbreak layup with 71 seconds left to seal the outcome.
Streak goes on
By securing a place in the quarterfinals, UNICS made it eight EuroCup appearances in a row that it has made elimination rounds. UNICS was the champion in 2011 and made the EuroCup Finals in 2014.
Firing from long range
For the second time in the Top 16, UNICS hit its season-high of 13 three-point shots, but this time on a season-best 52% accuracy. Jamar Smith was especially hot, sinking 6 of 7 shots, getting his career EuroCup tally to 206 triples, one shy of second place on the all-time charts.
While UNICS hit 13 triples, Rytas only attempted 13 shots from downtown. Rytas came into the game making 9.5 three-pointers per night in the Top 16, but was held to just 2-for-13 from long range in this one. It is the fewest threes made and attempted this season,
In the Top 16 finale in the first week of March, UNICS will travel to face AS Monaco in a game that will decide the winner of Group G, while Rytas will welcome Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul.
Wednesday, February 5, 2020