Zenit outlasts Baskonia at home
In a thriller, Zenit registered consecutive wins in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague for the first time by edging KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 72-66 at home on Wednesday. Zenit improved to 6-13 in the standings while Baskonia dropped to 8-11. Will Thomas led the winners with 18 points, Mateusz Ponitka added 14 and Colton Iverson had 10 for Zenit. Nik Stauskas paced Baskonia with 15 points and Toko Shengelia and Pierria Henry each added 13. After Shengelia scored down low to give Baskonia its final lead, 63-65, as Thomas and Ponitka fueled a 9-1 run that gave Zenit the victory.
Youssoupha Fall got Baskonia going with a layup, but Thomas and Iverson fueled a 10-0 run that Ponitka capped with a driving layup. After Shengelia and Alex Renfroe exchanged driving baskets, Matt Janning brought Baskonia a bit closer, 12-7. Iverson kept pushing Zenit with a layup and Ponitka bettered Henry's jumper with a triple that restored a 17-9 margin. Shengelia stepped up with a fastbreak dunk and Stauskas struck from downtown to bring Baskonia within 17-14. Evgeny Voronov sank a floater and Andrew Albicy buried one from beyond the arc for a 23-16 Zenit lead after 10 minutes. Gustavo Ayon scored twice around the basket to make it a double-digit game, 28-16, early in the second quarter. Shengelia fed Michael Eric for a dunk and scored in penetration, igniting a 0-8 run that Shavon Shields capped with a layup for a 28-24 Baskonia deficit. Ponitka rescued Zenit with a power basket and Austin Hollins added a floater to keep Zenit way ahead, 32-24. Shields downed a catch-and-shoot jumper, but Iverson and Ponitka restored a double-digit Zenit lead, 36-26. Janning buried a triple and even though Abromaitis answered, Ilimane Diop brought Baskonia within 39-31 at halftime.
Thomas followed a jump hook with a layup immediately after the break for a 43-31 margin. Shengelia took over with a layup-plus-foul and Stauskas struck from beyond the arc to bring Baskonia within 45-37. Henry scored around the basket and Eric took over with a wild-put-back slam that made it a 4-point game. Henry capped a 2-12 run with a driving basket before Alex Renfroe scored in penetration and Iverson added a put-back layup to give Zenit fresh air at 49-43. Shengelia buried a jumper and Stauskas banked in an off-balance shot, but Thomas singlehandedly kept Zenit ahead, 53-47. Diop dunked, fixing the score at 53-49 after 30 minutes. Thomas kept pacing the hosts early in the second quarter and Andrey Zubkov added a tip-in for a 57-49 score. Janning and Henry each sank a triple, but Ponitka restored a 59-55 Zenit lead with less than 6 minutes to go. Henry struck from downtown, giving Baskonia its first lead since the opening basket, 59-60. Thomas scored down low, but Stauskas did better with a three-pointer. Renfroe scored in penetration to tie it at 63-63 with 2:27 left. Shengelia delivered with a put-back layup, but Thomas matched that with a big basket in the low post. Ponitka buried a five-meter jumper and Abromaitis added a layup that boosted Zenit's lead to 69-65 with 29 seconds to go. Henry and Zubkov each split free throws before Thomas collected a steal that sealed the outcome.
Will Thomas was strong throughout the game and stepped up big in crunch time. He finished the game with 19 points on near-perfect shooting: 6-of-6 two-point shots, 1-of-2 from downtown and 4-of-4 free throws. He added 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 fouls drawn for a PIR of 27.
After trailing for more than 35 minutes, a put-back layup by Toko Shengelia gave Baskonia a 63-65 lead with 2 minutes left. Will Thomas scored in the low post, Mateusz Ponitka sank a five-meter baseline jumper and Tim Abromaitis found space for a layup. Andrey Zubkov and Thomas made free throws to seal the win. Baskonia only scored 1 point in crunch time, and that 9-1 final run made the difference in the game.
Zenit hit 24 of 31 two-point shots (77.4%). It was the eighth-best mark this decade and the second-best two-point shooting percentage in the EuroLeague this season. Anadolu Efes scored 78.1% of its two-point shots (25 of 32), also against Baskonia, on December 6, 2019.
Did you notice?
Alex Renfroe finished the game with 10 assists, matching his personal-best in the competition. Renfroe previously had 10 assists this season, against Anadolu Efes Istanbul on November 14, 2019.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action on Friday. Baskonia visits CSKA Moscow, in a rematch of one of last season's playoffs series, while Zenit hosts Valencia Basket.
Wednesday, January 15, 2020