UNICS: to Last 32 – without defeats
UNICS Kazan defeated Olimpija Ljubljana – 72:64
At last round of Last 32 of Eurocup, UNICS played host with Slovenian Olymija. The tournament has affected the performance of a play – a rare chance for both the hosts and the guests the event had no tournament significance… The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya has seen another UNICS's victory.
UNICS with its five victories in five rounds has secured 1st place and anticipated getting into the 1/8 finals. Olimpija had no chance to leave the last fourth place in our group 'M' two rounds before the end of regular season, even in theory… All that mean that the teams could play for pleasure, absolutely relaxed.
Without Langford again
Slovenians play just middling in the Adriatic League, too. After 23 rounds, Olympija is ninth out of 14, has 10 victories and 13 defeats, well-known to us Montenegrin Budućnost take a lead. In the first game of two teams in the capital of Slovenia Ljubljana, Kazan won with some difficulty, 89:83. The head coach of Olimija Gasper Potočnik made no bones about being satisfied with play of his wards, but recognizing the winners.
'I think, we played well against strong contestants. I would like to congratulate my team. Of course, it is not right to be happy for the failure, but we stayed with dignity. I think that my players did their best. Now, it is clear why our competitor pays to his players what he pays, because he puts into quality. His players made important shots in critical moments of the game. They deserve victory,' said the specialist.
It is noteworthy, that it is the fourth match in a row when Kazan had to play without its main goal-scorer Keith Langford, who is recovering from his injury. Without him UNICS beat Czech Nymburkat a championship of VTB United League, Kazakstan Astana and hosts at Eurocup in Nizhy Novgorod. Apparently, they can win without Langford. Before the game with Olimpija in two rounds Kazan won 16 times in a row! Last time UNICS lost Aris on 2 December in Thessaloniki.
They came out relaxed
The teams started the game relaxed, allowing to contesters to attack from any distance. The arbiter registered foul only 4:12 before the first quarter! By this time, UNICS led 12:7, Valery Likhodey and Arturas Milaknis managed to stand out with goals from far shot. But Slovenians, urged by two American veterans Zackary Wright and Dawan Robinson, by the end of ten minutes have been beaten, 18:15 – was the score when the teams had first timeout, but before it was 18:7… Hosts didn't get any penalty, while the guests had four times…
A total absence of tension allowed the teams not to put efforts in defence and do experiments with the squad. The coaching staff of UNICS completely used its first team by the middle of the second quarter except young Ruslan Khabirov and Dmitry Nezvankin. It should be noted that the Kazan successfully started to play successfully, Latavoius Williams, Marco Banic, Vadim Panin and Pyotr Gubanov scored points from the first attempt. Anton Pankrashov, Artyom Parakhovski, Likhodei, Konstantinos Kamakoglou and Milaknis formed the starter. Meanwhile, the guest felt comfortable in Basket-Hall. When 3:30 minutes left before the end of the first half, Robinson for the first time helped Olimija to take the lead, 29:30. It lasted only seconds; then Likhodei shot his second three-pointer. However, the equality was maintained. Thanks to Panin, Kazan went to have a rest with a 4-points margin, 37:33. UNICS had no penalty shots! The guests defended carefully and politely, so to speak…
No one wanted to lose
But no one wanted to lose. Mitja Nikolic's outside shot helped the guest team to hold the lead for the second time, 39:40. Robinson supported his partner, 41:42. Likhodei had to hit a one-handed shot, 43:42. It was an official match! Finally, the referees showed a generosity for the first time in the match (!) in favour of UNICS and awarded penalty shots that were performed by Parakhovski and Pankrashov. Banic helped his team to score the maximal score of the match as soon as the fourth quarter began, 59:48. It was noticed a long time ago that Banic, a Croatian player, plays with his compatriots, Slovenia is close to Croatia, with a special inspiration. The Kazan players pressed their opponents slowly but in a right direction, there isn't another option. Play-off requires a good mood. Colom's layup was the next step, 66:52. But the Slovenian players did not want to be beaten and made two consecutive three-pointers. Yevgeny Pashutin had to take timeout. The scoreboard showed 66:58 when 4:38 left before the end. There was a head-to-head fight near the backboard too. So, three quarters were over, rebounds – 24:24.
Advantage of own court before the final
Two minutes left to finish the match, and the host team made the guests continue the competition, 69:58. Anyway UNICS' first team was playing, while the young was polishing the bench. The statistics cannot be worsened. We are speaking about the unbeaten run of 17 games of the Kazan players in the official matches! UNICS turned out to be the only team that did not have any defeat in this stage of Eurocup. It gave an advantage of their own court in all play-off stages!
Yevgeny Pashutin the head coach of UNICS BC
- It was an uneasy game like in Ljubljana. Olimija is a fast, young and motivated team. We started to play bad and lacked motivation. But in the 3rd and 4th quarters we drew some conclusions and began to play more aggressively. We had no penalty shot in the first half! It was a good lesson for us. All important games are ahead. This match will help us to be back to the pace of game with our usual hard defence.
Gasper Potocnik the head coach of Union Olimija BC
- We played with a very strong team and experienced players that was demonstrated in the match. UNICS punished us for every small mistake. We wish the Kazan players would go further in Eurocup. In this tournament, it is important to gain experience for the future, and our young did it. We are satisfied with our result. Yes, we could have played better, but it is the reality. We played with the clubs whose budgets is better than ours.
UNICS – Olimpija 72:64 (18:15, 19:18, 20615, 15:16).
Highest scorers: UNICS – Banic (14), Ponkrashev (13), Likhodei (10), Panin (10); Olimpija — Wrighy (10), Hrovat (10).