Milan fights back for sixth straight win
AX Armani Exchange Milan came from behind to make it six wins in a row with an 82-76 victory over Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday night. Balanced and consistent offense allowed Zenit to take a 35-44 halftime lead, but Milan gradually came back into the game after the break and finished stronger to edge over the winning line. Kevin Punter led five Milan scorers in double figures with 14 points, followed by Sergio Rodriguez with 13. Malcolm Delaney and Kyle Hines each netted 12 points and Vladimir Micov added 10. Kevin Pangos and Austin Hollins scored 12 for Zenit, with KC Rivers netting all 11 of his points in the first half. The victory took Milan into third place at 15-7, while Zenit dropped to 13-8.
Zach LeDay and Rivers traded early inside blows, and it stayed closely fought with defenses on top. Hollins scored in transition and Will Thomas hit a hook shot to make it 6-9 midway through the first quarter. Pangos added a triple to complete a 0-8 run before Shavon Shields answered from beyond the arc. Vitaly Fridzon, Billy Baron and Mateusz Ponitka all struck inside to keep Zenit moving, 11-18. Thomas added a three-point play before Rodriguez and Fridzon hit triples to finish the first quarter, 16-24. Milan opened the second with threes from Rodriguez and Punter, but Ponitka hit an off-balance jumper and Baron struck from deep. Pangos added another triple for a double-digit lead, 22-32, but Delaney hit back with his own three. Rivers then caught fire with a trio of three-pointers, making it 29-41. Hines rescued Milan with a mid-range jumper before Shields hit from deep. Pangos accelerated to the basket for a layup and a 35-44 advantage at the half.
The defenses dominated the early exchanges of the second half with only 4 points in the first 3 minutes. Then Arturas Gudaitis dunked to restore a double-digit lead before Hines rose for a putback slam-and-one and Delaney added a jumper, 42-48. Gudaitis scored inside again and Ponitka penetrated to score at the hoop. Rodriguez nailed a triple before a series of free throws in the face of physical defense from both teams made it 56-59 at the end of the third. Fridzon ended a run of 5 minutes without a field goal by sinking a jumper before a long two by Rodriguez was answered by Pangos with a layup. Micov followed a three-point play with a three-pointer to give Milan its first lead since the opening stages, 64-63. Hines found his way to the hoop to score, but Pangos banked in a mid-range shot for a 66-66 tie with 5 minutes left. Hines netted again, but Hollins struck from deep to edge Zenit ahead. Micov sent Milan back in front and Punter added a three, making it 75-71 with 2 minutes on the clock. Punter drove inside for a layup before Delaney sank a triple and that was enough to seal the win.
Hines stands strong for hosts
The best player in the game was Kyle Hines, who had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists for a PIR of 20 – his joint-highest yet in a Milan uniform. His strong display helped quiet former Milan man Arturas Gudaitis, who scored just 8 points in 33 minutes on the floor.
Free throws make a difference
Milan drew 23 fouls and had great success from the foul line, making 24 of its 26 free throw attempts. Zenit converted 15 of 18 from the line and those extra points made a big difference to the outcome.
Long-range shooting boosts Milan
The winning side was also more accurate from long-range, making 10 of 21 (47.6%) three-pointers as four different players scored multiple triples. Zenit, meanwhile, only made 9 of 24 (37.5%) from beyond the arc.
Zenit is back on the road next Friday evening to visit Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. Milan travels to LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne the same night.
Thursday, January 28, 2021