Zenit beats Milan, soars to fourth place
Zenit St Petersburg defeated AX Armani Exchange Milan 79-70 on Monday at Sibur Arena in a makeup game from Round 5 that sent the victors into fourth place in the standings. Zenit improved to 15-9 – leapfrogging three teams with 15-10 records – and dropped Milan to 16-9. Kevin Pangos starred with 16 points, 10 assists and 3 steals to lead Zenit, Arturas Gudaitis also scored 16 and blocked 2 shots, Billy Baron added 13 points and Will Thomas and Alex Poythress netted 10 points apiece. Kevin Punter paced Milan with 16 points, Shavon Shields scored 15, Sergio Rodriguez had 10 and Kyle Hines produced 9 points and 10 rebounds in defeat. After Shields tied the game at 60-60 3 minutes into the fourth quarter, Zenit held the visitors to just one basket over nearly 5 minutes during an 11-2 run that decided the game.
Shields stood out for Milan early with a three-pointer and a layup after an offensive rebound. However, the visitors soon found themselves in trouble when starting center Kaleb Tarczewski was called for his second foul after just 1:13 of playing time. Zenit began attacking the paint with Gudaitis leading the way; the big man scored three times and dished an assist to Mateusz Ponitka in a 10-0 Zenit run. Hines and Rodriguez came off the bench to revive the visitors and trim the deficit to 14-13. Poythress and Thomas helped the hosts extend their advantage to 19-15 after 10 minutes. Baron sniped Zenit's first three of the game to open the second quarter and his layup later made it 28-20. A three-pointer by K.C. Rivers gave Zenit its first double-digit lead, 33-22, and prompted a Milan timeout midway through the second quarter. Vladimir Micov helped bring Milan back with free throws and a triple to narrow the gap to 36-31. Despite a pair of slams by Gudaitis, Milan continued to fight back and a three by Michael Roll made it 40-38 at the break.
After a scoreless first half, Punter's four-point play tied the game early in the second half. Then he scored on the break and beat the shot clock with a jumper to put Milan up 42-46. A pull-up three by Baron put Zenit back in front as the lead started to change hands with regularity. A jumper by Hines tied it at 54-54 at the end of the third quarter. Shields's put-back restored a Milan edge at the onset of the fourth. Zenit regained control on a jumper by Thomas, 60-58. Pangos twice drove into the heard of the Milan defense for baskets that put Zenit ahead by 4. A basket-plus-foul by Gudaitis, who was fresh off the bench, made it 68-62 with 3 minutes remaining. A three by Pangos was answered by Punter with his second four-point play of the game. After free throws by Gudaitis, a deep three by Pangos made it 76-66 with 1 minute on the clock as the hosts held on for a crucial victory.
After Shavon Shields tied the game at 60-60 3 minutes into the fourth quarter, Zenit held the visitors to just one basket over nearly 5 minutes during an 11-2 run that decided the game. Kevin Pangos starred with 7 points and an assist in that time.
These teams met three weeks earlier in Italy where Milan won 82-76. By virtue of Zenit's 9-point victory, Coach Xavi Pascual's men now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker between these teams. What's more, if Zenit has played one game less than Milan and if it wins its postponed Round 6 game against Panathinaikos, it could overtake Milan for third place.
The telling statistics
Zenit outpointed Milan in almost every major statistical category, including two-point shooting (66.7%-57.5%), three-point shooting (33.3%-28.6%), rebounds (32-28), assists (21-12) and blocks (5-0) to compile a performance index rating of 108 to Milan's 66.
Two Milan players moved up on the all-time EuroLeague ranks. Kyle Hines took his career point tally to 2,658 points to overtake – at least temporarily – Alexey Shved of Khimki Moscow Region (2,655) for 12th place all-time. Sergio Rodriguez broke a tie with Milos Teodosic to take sole possession of fifth place on the career charts with 472 three-pointers made.
Both teams will be back in action in Round 26 on Thursday evening. Zenit hosts Valencia Basket. Milan returns home to face Khimki Moscow Region.
Monday, February 22, 2021