Unics downs Nizhny, clinches first place in Group M
Unics Kazan locked first place in Group M by edging Nizhny Novgorod 78-80 on the road on Wednesday. Unics went up to 5-0 and is mathematically first while Nizhny dropped to 2-3 and now faces a do-or-die showdown against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv next week. Anton Ponkrashov paced the winners with 26 points on 6-of-6 three-point shots. Arturas Milaknis added 12 while Latavious Williams had 10 for Unics, which were without top gun Keith Langford. Semen Antonov led Nizhny with 27 points. Evgeny Baburin added 17 while Victor Rudd had 11 for the hosts. Ponkrashov had 15 points in the first quarter, getting help from Milaknis and Valery Likhodey to give Unics a 26-31 margin after 10 minutes. A jumper by Marko Banic soon made it a double-digit game, 29-40. Antonov and Baburin stepped up for Nizhny, combining for all points in a 9-0 run which brought the hosts back to life, 38-40. Another three-pointer by Baburin completed Nizhny's comeback, 50-47, but Milaknis and Art Parakhouski restored a 51-53 Unics edge at halftime. Unics improved its defense after the break and found a go-to guy in Ponkrashov, who allowed the guests to get a 63-72 margin after 30 minutes. An outstanding Antonov brought Nizhny as close as 78-80 and the hosts had an option to send the game to overtime but Rudd missed a close, off-balance shot at the buzzer.
Ponkrashov got Unics going with 7 quick points but Rasid Mahalbasic, Antonov and a fast break layup by Rudd tied it at 7-7. Kostas Kaimakoglou and Arturas Milaknis buried back-to-back triples but Antonov and Dimitriy Khvostov kept Nizhny within 12-13. Milaknis and Baburin exchanged three-pointers but Ponkrashov buried his second one from beyond the arc for a 15-19 Unics lead. Rudd scored around the basket and improved Ponkrashov's floater with a triple. Likhodey joined the three-point shootout and even when Antonov nailed his trademark turnaround jumper, Ponkashov nailed another one from downtown. Khvostov scored in penetration and free throws by Vladimir Ivlev kept Nizhny within 26-27. Williams dunked and a buzzer-beating basket by Milaknis gave Unics a 26-31 lead after 10 minutes. Baburin hit a triple early in the second quarter by Quino Colom answered from downtown and added a driving basket to make Nizhny call timeout at 29-36. Williams scored down low and a baseline jumper by Banic made it a double-digit game, 29-40. Antonov and Baburin combined for all points in a 9-0 run which brought Nizhny as close as 38-40. Williams followed a big dunk with free throws but a three-pointer by Ivlev tied it at 44-44. Ponkashov and Antonov traded triples and Baburin soon completed the hosts' comeback, 50-47. Milaknis and Parakhouski combined for 6 quick points to put Unics back ahead, 51-53, at halftime.
Rudd sank a six-meter jumper soon after the break but free throws by Parakhouski and Milaknis gave Unics a 53-56 edge. Kaimakoglou banked in a running shot which Mahalbasic matched with a layup. Parakhouski nailed a turnaround jumper and Ponkrashov scored again to boost Unics's margin to 55-62. Antonov split free throws but Nizhny kept struggling to score. Parakhouski kept pacing the guests with a tip-in and Likhodey boosted Unics's lead to 56-68. Ivan Strebkov swished a jumper, Likhodey hit a jump hook but free throws by Andrei Kirdiachkin and a triple by Baburin made Unics stop the game at 63-70. Williams scored down low for a 63-72 Unics margin after 30 minutes. Ivlev shined with a backdoor layup earlu in the fourth quarter but Ponkrashov did better with his 5th triple. Strebkov hit a stop-and-pop jumper in the lane which Baburin followed with a put-back layup for a 69-75 score with over 6 minutes left. Antonov improved Kaimakoglou's layup with a triple but Pankrashov answered from downtown to make it an eight-point game, 72-80, with 3 minutes to go. Rudd ignited the crowd with a great dunk and Antonov added a put-back basket to give Nizhny hope at 76-80. Antonov scored around the basket and Nizhny got the ball back with 18 seconds left but Rudd missed a driving shot at the buzzer.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016