Unics Kazan of Russia, which had already clinched a berth in the Last 16 and the first place in Group B, prevailed 79-72 in a tough battle against PBC Lukoil Lukoil of Bulgaria on Tuesday. Lukoil's defeat means that Dynamo Moscow took second place in the group and advanced to the Last 16 together with Unics. Lukoil led 32-41 at the halftime, but Marco Popovic burned the guests with 4 three-pointers in a 21-12 third quarter, before Vladimir Veremeenko took over by scoring 18 of his 22 points in the final 10 minutes for Unics. Popovic scored 15 of his 21 points on triples, while Tariq Kirksay matched Veremeenko with 10 rebounds and added 13 points for the winners. Anthony Akins led a balanced Lukoil offense with 13 points, Riste Stefanov notched 11, and Hristo Nikolov and Veselin Veselinov had 10 points each, while Tencho Banev led Lukoil in rebounds with 10.
It was raining triples in the first minutes of the game, as Chavdar Kostov opened the scoring with a long shot for the guests and Popovic copied him at the other end. After Unics scored inside twice, Akins and Stefanov hit additional three-pointers to help Lukoil take an 8-9 lead. But Kirksay was ready to connect from downtown for the hosts and Dmitry Sokolov added consecutive baskets to make it 15-9 in Unics' favour. The teams exchanged points for the rest of the quarter, as a Veremeenko free throw made it 21-15 after the first 10 minutes. Led by Popovic, Unics was best at the start of the second quarter, expanding the advantage to 26-17. Though Akins hurt the hosts with a pair of triples, the Kazan club was still in control at 28-23, before Lukoil turned the game around with a 1-8 run, overtaking the lead at 29-31. Artem Kouziakine stopped the bleeding with a three for the hosts, but Lukoil finished the first half with 10 unanswered points, as a Nikolov three-pointer put the guests ahead at 32-41. After Kirksay scored 5 quick points at the start of the third quarter, Lukoil answered with layups by Banev and Stefanov. This is where Popovic took over, single-handedly outscoring Lukoil 9-0 with 3 threes in less than 3 minutes, to put Unics back in front at 46-45. Banev and Stefanov gave Lukoil more points, before Popovic hit his fourth triple of the quarter, and it was all even with 10 minutes to go, after Kirksay's layup was matched by Veselinov's dunk. Veremeenko stepped up his game in the final quarter, scoring 4 points and then adding a three-point play to turn a 59-59 tie into a 62-59 Unics lead. A basket by Stefanov and a layup by Veselinov made it even again, but Veremeenko was absolutely unstoppable, as he nailed a triple and hit 4 free throws. Eugeny Voronov added a two-pointer, and now it was 71-62 with only 3 minutes to go. Akins went to work for the guests and Nikolov made a three-point play, but a three by veteran Sergei Chikalkin and 4 more free throws from magnificent Veremeenko sealed the game for Unics.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009