UNICS Kazan arrived at Topolica Sports Hall in Montenegro locked in and ready to get its third consecutive victory in Group H of 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16. But UNICS also made history with a 70-87 road win against Mornar Bar that was far from ordinary.
Indeed, on this night, UNICS recorded its 155th win in the competition to set a new all-time 7DAYS EuroCup record for any club. UNICS passed Valencia Basket, which now ranks second with 154 wins. Herbalife Gran Canaria (116) and Rytas Vilnius (102) are the other two teams with more than 100 victories in the EuroCup. UNICS now has an overall EuroCup record of 155-64 record for a 70.8% winning rate and won the competition in the 2010-11 campaign.
Moreover, the win lifted UNICS to a 3-0 record in Group H and puts the Russian powerhouse on the verge of playoffs qualification should it beat Mornar at home when they meet again in Round 4 next week.
After an up-and-down first quarter won by the hosts, 22-21, UNICS did everything well in Mornar, starting with stepping up its defense. A tip-in by John Brown sparked a 2-12 run in which John Holland and Jamar Smith each struck from beyond the arc and Isaiah Canaan capped it with a layup at 31-39. UNICS kept a 36-43 margin at halftime and extended it to 54-70 after three quarters, enough to seal the outcome.
UNICS's defensive mentality was really strong after the break, as Holland indicated at halftime that it would be: "It is a war out there, you know? And when you are in a war, you have to be ready to die. That's how we have to come out, we have to be willing to die for this."
Jordan Morgan was arguably the best player on the floor for either team. He finished the game with 14 points, making 7 of 11 two-point shots, and 14 rebounds. Those are the most boards by a UNICS player in EuroCup action since Maciej Lampe pulled down 16 against Pepsi Caserta on March 30, 2011. Morgan grabbed 6 of those 14 boards in the third quarter, which UNICS won 18-27 to put the game away.
"For us, it is all about defense, so we want to set a tone on the defensive end, make it difficult and we did that," Morgan said after. "It was an up-and-down game, they are a tough team, they are physical, and they have a lot of talent. So we had to lock in."
"It is our third win in a row. It is very positive for us," UNICS head coach Dimitris Priftis added. "We approached the game defensively. As long as we did that, except in the first quarter, I think it was easier for us, and we raised the possibilities to win the game."
The UNICS defense has allowed 77.9 points on average in this EuroCup season, but that number has plummeted to 66.0 in the Top 16 as opponents have been forced to shoot just 49.4% on two-point shots and 36.6% on threes. With a whole team committed to Priftis's defensive-minded methods, and enough talent to score anywhere on offense, UNICS is surging anew as a candidate to challenge for the EuroCup title.