Smith shoots UNICS to thrilling win over Skyliners
UNICS Kazan downed Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt 83-80 the top of Group D thanks to a last-second three-pointer from Jamar Smith after an incredible pass from Pierria Henry. UNICS, which improves to 4-1, led most of the way but a fourth quarter blitz from Brady Heslip – who finished with 25 points – provided a grandstand finish. In the end Smith’s strike was enough, and he led the scoring for UNICS with 16 points. Maurice NDour added 12, while Trent Lockett, Raymar Morgan and Artem Klimenko all scored 10. Henry had 9 points to go with his 6 assists. For Skyliners, which falls to 3-2, Heslip was supported by 16 points from Jason Clark, 15 from Erik Murphy and 14 from Shawn Huff.
Seven points from Murphy gave Skyliners an early lead, but UNICS went on a 12-0 run – including a pair of lay-ups by NDour – to move in front. A three-point play from Henry ended the first quarter at 22-18, but Huff knocked down his third triple to keep Skyliners moving. NDour threw down a put-back slam and Smith assisted a pair of close-range finishes for Klimenko to extend UNICS’ edge to 32-25, but Clark scored 5 straight to spark a 0-11 run as Skyliners took the lead. Then it was the home team’s turn for a 9-0 run, before Clark’s miraculous buzzer beater made it 47-41 at the break. A big block by NDour and a deep two from Smith highlighted a 6-0 start to the second half as UNICS took a double-digit lead, but a quickfire trio of triples from Heslip kept Skyliners in contention. Four points from Morgan re-established a double-digit lead at 66-55 after three quarters, and another pair of Morgan baskets further stretched the lead. Triples from Heslip and Murphy, along with a pair of Clark layups, made it 74-67 with 5 minutes remaining, and two more Heslip triples delivered a one-possession game. Two layups from Heslip tied the game at 77-77, but Smith’s long-range strike sent UNICS back in front. Murphy was fouled on a three-point attempt and made them all for another tie with 22 seconds remaining, but UNICS grabbed the win at the death as Henry found Smith for the game-winning three.
Henry’s incredible assist delivers glory
The scoresheet might show Smith as the game-winner, but the truth is that Henry deserves even more credit for his belief-defying assist. With the game clock in the last couple of seconds, Henry looked to be jumping out of bounds but somehow conjured an off-balance mid-air bounce pass straight along the baseline perfectly into the hands of Smith, who did the rest with an accurate strike. Assist of the season? It won’t be far off.
Heslip’s triples give Skyliners a chance
After netting a club record 17 last week, Skyliners was intent upon following a similar approach this time. The German team finished with a total of 15 three-pointers on 32 attempts, having only tried 21 two-point shots all night. Heslip led the way by making 7-of-12 three-pointers. He has now scored at least 15 points in four of the first five games of his debut EuroCup season.
UNICS takes care of the ball
A remarkable aspect of UNICS’ first half performance – and a significant factor behind its ability to score 47 points before the break – was the fact that the Russian team did not commit a single turnover during the first two quarters. That impeccable efficiency could not be maintained throughout, but UNICS final tally of just 5 turnovers – paired with 20 assists – was still impressive enough.
UNICS will attempt to maintain its excellent start to the season with a home game against Mornar Bar, while Skyliners is on the road again to face Fiat Turin.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018