Valiev leads Zenit to comeback win over Partizan
Zenit St Petersburg came from behind to claim a nervous but crucial 75-71 home victory over Partizan NIS Belgrade, improving to 4-3 in Group C. The visiting team trailed for the entire first half but rallied after the break, and was up by double digits before Partizan fought back to provide a grandstand finale. Sergey Karasev top scored for Zenit with 21 points, but an even more influential performance was delivered by Evgeny Valiev with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocked shots. Vladislav Trushkin added 12 for the hosts. Partizan, which drops to 2-5, was paced by 11 points from Vanja Marinkovic, while Marcus Paige scored 10 in defeat.
A pair of inside baskets for Jock Landale helped Partizan take an early lead, and three-pointers from Marcus Paige and Stefan Jankovic extended the advantage. But Zenit finished the opening quarter with a 6-0 spurt, including a buzzer beater by Trushkin, to make it 20-22. Trushkin scored again to tie the game at the start of the second, but Bandja Sy got Partizan moving with a couple of big slams. Consecutive baskets from Brandon Jennings kept Zenit in touch, but a pair of close-range strikes from Strahinja Gavrilovic allowed Partizan to protect its lead and it was 40-44 at the break. Both teams struggled offensively early in the second half and the margin stayed roughly the same until consecutive driving baskets from Karasev sent the home team in front at 52-50. Zenit then claimed its biggest lead so far with an offensive rebound and basket from Voronov at the end of the third, which finished 58-54. Vaviev opened the final quarter’s scoring and a three-point play by Philip Scrubb stretched the lead, and it looked as though Zenit would cruise home as the gap grew to 15 points. But then Marinkovic got hot to score 10 points in less than four minutes, and free throws from Aleksey Nikolic made it a one-possession game inside the final minute. But Karasev scored again to settle Zenit’s nerves, and that was enough.
Turnovers hold the key
As so often happens, turnovers played a crucial role in determining the outcome. Zenit committed only 9, while Partizan had double that tally with 18. A particularly honourable mention goes to Evgeny Valiev, whose outstanding all-round contribution also included zero turnovers. It was a similar story with steals: Zenit claimed 11, including 3 from Valiev, while Partizan only managed 1.
Barren run kills Partizan
An offensive slowdown at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth ended up costing Partizan dear. The Serbian team only scored one field goal during a ten minute spell which allowed Zenit to turn a 4-point deficit into a 15-point lead. And although Partizan eventually started scoring again midway through the final quarter, the gap was too big to overcome.
Zenit overcomes long-range shooting woes
Zenit just could not find its range from long distance all night, remarkably only making 1-of-18 three-point attempts (5.6%). The biggest offender was Philip Scrubb, who missed all seven of his attempts from beyond the arc. But that was compensated with a solid effort from the line, with Zenit making 18-of-21 foul shots (85.7%) compared to just 8-of-15 (53.3%) free throws for the visiting team.
Zenit will hope it can secure its progression into the next stage by beating Dolomiti Energia Trento at home, while Partizan hosts Valencia Basket.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018