UNICS clinches Group H first place
With first place in Group H at stake, UNICS Kazan used a strong second half to pull away and beat visiting MoraBanc Andorra 72-53 in the final round of the Top 16 on Wednesday. Both teams finished the group with 5-1 records, but UNICS overcame MoraBanc's 6-point win from Round 2 to clinch first place and secure home-court advantage for the quarterfinals. UNICS won the second half 40-23 as Raymar Morgan led the way with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Pierria Henry had 14 points and 5 assists, Jamar Smith finished with 12 points, and Errick McCollum netted 11 for UNICS, which remained undefeated at home for the season and will play Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in the quarterfinals. Moussa Diagne had 12 points and 6 assists, while Andrew Albicy had 10 points and 8 assists for MoraBanc, which saw its six-game winning streak snapped. As the second-placed team from Group H, MoraBanc will face Group F winner LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in the next stage.
The two teams came out firing, with Albicy and Evgeny Kolesnikov trading triples. Soon after, Raymar Morgan's dunk was answered by a pair of alley-oops from Albicy to Diagne. Trent Lockett and Henry struck from downtown for UNICS, but John Shurna and Michele Vitali answered for the visitors, making it 15-16 after 5 minutes. However, both teams slowed down after that and did not manage to score another field goal the rest of the quarter. Dylan Ennis's floater early in the second made it 17-23, but Morgan ended a drought by UNICS and sparked a 9-1 run capped by a Melvin Ejim's triple that put the hosts ahead, 26-24. Neither team managed to gain separation the rest of the half and UNICS had a strong finish to the second quarter to go into the break with a 32-30 lead. Ejim and Henry extended the lead to 38-32 in the third quarter, but Shurna sank back-to-back jumpers that capped a 0-6 run and tied the game again. However, a triple from Henry put UNICS in front for good, and back-to-back uncontested baskets from Morgan made it 49-43 after 30 minutes. UNICS continued its charge in the fourth quarter. A triple and a fastbreak dunk from McCollum followed by back-to-back close-range baskets from Morgan extended it 60-45. After a MoraBanc timeout, Ennis had a jumper and a transition triple, but Smith strung together 8 points, including a pair of triples, to cap a 10-0 run that extended the margin to 70-50 and wrapped up the victory.
After the two teams combined to score 31 points in the opening 5:20, the two sides scored 31 points the rest of the first half. The start of the game suggested we might have a shootout at hand, but for exactly the next 6 minutes spanning into the second quarter, neither team managed to score a single basket. UNICS's field goal drought lasted for 7 minute and 10 seconds.
UNICS finished the third quarter with a 6-1 run. Then Errick McCollum hit a triple to fuel an 11-2 run to open the fourth quarter and turn a slim 43-42 advantage into a 60-45 margin.
Jamar leaves it late
Jamar Smith only scored 2 points in the game when he hit a triple with 3:01 left to extend his streak of 53 games with at least 1 three-point shot made. He hit another one 64 seconds later, to seal the outcome.
UNICS over 15,000 points
UNICS became the second team, after Valencia, to score 15,000 points in competition history. UNICS entered the game needing 39 points to reach the milestone and did it on Jamar Smith's baseline jumper midway through the third quarter.
As the winner of Group H, UNICS will have home-court advantage against fellow Russian side Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in the best-of-three quarterfinals. Meanwhile, MoraBanc will be on the road in its quarterfinal series opener against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne. Game 1s are scheduled to start on Tuesday, March 5.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019