Unics Kazan held off hosts Barons/LMT Riga to celebrate an 81-86 victory and finish the Eurocup regular season with a perfect 6-0 record in Group B. Unics will be among the favorites in the Last 16, while the Latvian champs ended their European season with a 1-5 record. Unics took over in the middle quarters, turning a 37-32 deficit into a 53-67 lead as substitute Artem Kouziakine scored all of his 15 points in the span. Tariq Kirksay led Unics with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, while Dmitry Sokolov added 12 points for the winners, who rested Vladimir Veremeenko and Marko Popovic and only played Terrel Lyday for 14 minutes. For Barons, Demetrius Alexander drilled 4 triples in the first half, but cooled off after halftime to finish with 18 points. Charles Rhodes matched Alexander with 18 points and Todd Abernethy netted 15 to go with 7 assists in defeat.
Unics started the game with an unusual lineup, including Alexey Zhukanenko, Eugeny Voronov and Igor Zamanskiy. Alexander opened the scoring for Barons and Armands Skele stole the ball to dunk for an early 4-0 lead. On the other end, big man Dmitry Sokolov made Unics's first basket, Zhukanenko slammed and Kirksay hit a three to give Unics a 5-7 advantage. After Alexander and Zamanskiy exchanged three-pointers, several ties followed at 12-12, 14-14 and 19-19, as Abernethy paced the hosts, while Kirksay stepped up for the visitors. Then Alexander drilled his third from behind the arc to put Barons in front at 22-19, and Abernethy added 2 free throws to make it 24-20 after the first 10 minutes. Unics started the second quarter with a free throw by Zamanskiy and a layup by Zhukanenko, while Kaspars Berzins and Rhodes got hot on the other end, with 2 threes and 2 two-pointers, respectively. But Kirksay and Lyday made sure that Unics stayed in the game and didn't trail by more than 5. A dunk by Kirksay cut the margin to 34-32, and though brilliant Alexander scored his fourth triple of the night, Kouziakine, Zamanskiy and Kresimir Loncar combined for 6 straight points to help Unics overtake the lead at 37-38. Dainius Adomaitis stepped up with 4 points for Barons and Rhodes added a bucket, but Kouziakine matched that with 2 straight three-pointers on the other end, and Dynamo was ahead by a single point, 43-44, at the halftime.
Unics's defense picked it up at the start of the second half to allow a 0-5 run led by Lyday's 4 points. Abernethy and Rhodes gave Barons a bucket each, but Zhukanenko had a three in between and Kouziakine made 2 free throws and a layup to widen the difference at 49-56. Though Rhodes kept fighting inside for the hosts, Sokolov scored 6 points to organize a 4-11 run Unics run, that also featured a triple by Kouziakine, and it was 53-67 by the end of the third quarter. Veteran Sergei Chikalkin hit 3 for 3 from the free throw line to start the fourth quarter, before Berzins and Rhodes scored 5 points for Barons. Kirksay's 5 points on the other end made sure that another Rhodes' bucket didn't make much difference, as the Unics' advantage remained unthreatened, 60-75. Kristers Zeidars and Martins Kravcenko renewed hope for the Latvian champs, as they scored 7 points to trim the margin to 67-77 with five minutes to go. But Unics simply matched every Barons basket in the next minutes and was up 75-85 with 60 seconds left on the clock. A triple by Abernethy and 2 free throws by Adomaitis came too late, and even missed free throws couldn’t deny Unics's victory, its sixth in as many games in Group B.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009