| Unics Kazan topped Pepsi Caserta Wednesday night at the Palamaggio Arena 84-90 in the first leg of their two-game total-points Eurocup Quarterfinals series. The 6-point win for the visitors now forces Caserta to make up the deficit next Wednesday in Russia to make it to next month’s Eurocup Finals in Treviso. Vladimir Veremeenko paced the winners with 30 points and 12 rebounds, while Terrell Lyday added 16 points, Marko Popovic recorded 11 points and 6 assists and Kelly McCarty tallied 10 points. Caserta was not able to counter Kazan’s inside dominance through Veremeenko and better overall shooting performance, and lost its first game at home since Week 3 of the regular season. The hosts were led by Eric Williams’s 22 points, while Jumaine Jones added 18 to go with 9 rebounds, Ebi Ere scored 13, and Martin Colussi totaled 10 in defeat. Game 2 will be played Wednesday night at the Basket-Hall in Kazan.
The match featured plenty of half-court basketball to begin with, with Williams dominating in the post for Caserta and Veremeenko keeping active on the visiting end, scoring 8 of his team’s first 12 points en route to a 9-12 start. Unics moved the ball well with Popovic handling the show, while Jones struggled to drop his perimeter shots, and Caserta could not establish an offensive rhythm until Williams banked on a potent three-point play in the post to make it 14-16. Maciej Lampe showed off his range at the other end with a jumper and the margin prevailed through the rest of the quarter, as the break was reached at 18-22.
Lampe picked off in the second quarter where he left the first, hitting a jumper before Jones found his shooting touch from beyond the arc and then scored off a steal and assist by Aaron Doornekamp to tie it at 24. Veremeenko then forced a three-point play before Lukasz Koszarek and Lyday traded triples and Williams again muscled inside for an “and-one” that kept the game even at 30-30. As the hosts tried to force the issue, Kazan stayed intent on slowing the tempo down and featuring its deep frontcourt. But no visitor could stop Colussi from stringing together 5 straight points, the last one on a determined drive that also forced a foul and sent the home fans into a frenzy. Lampe joined the “and-one” festival at the other end and the difference stayed minimal. With both teams working to set the tone inside, the game eventually slowed down despite the hosts’ full-court press and aggressive penetration, and Kazan stayed in front at the break, 44-46.
Williams confirmed his basket-plus-foul situations were no fluke with another to start the second half, and Jones followed with a nice reverse hook. Caserta’s points put the hosts in the driver’s seat before Popovic leveled matter at 49-49 with a triple. Ebi Ere got involved with consecutive mid-range jumpers to give the Italian team its maximum advantage until that point at 55-51 and coach Stefano Sacripanti’s crew effectively seemed poised to make a run, attacking the heart of the visiting defense repeatedly and getting to the line. Kazan did not despair, however, and improved ball movement and high-pressure defense on the Caserta ball handlers allowed coach Evgeny Pashutin’s squad to flip-flop the score, reaching the final quarter at a minimal 60-61 advantage after a pair of close shots by Lyday and Veremeenko.
The guard stayed hot after the break, draining a three pointer that Jones felt obliged to answer at the other end. The intensity picked up, as Colussi stepped up to hit from beyond the arc to tie the game at 66-66 and then drove for the go-ahead score. Defenses tightened in the final quarter, but that did not stop Zakhar Pashutin from dropping a gorgeous running hook down the lane, or Koszarek from immediately responding with a pull-up jumper. Still, Veremeenko was a load for Caserta, who was not able to keep him in check down low. The forward put back an offensive miss by Lyday to pull Unics ahead 72-76 midway through the quarter. The visitors capitalized on their defensive awareness down the stretch, pressuring Fabio Di Bella up the court and disrupting the hosts’ half court rhythm while Hasan Rizvic widened the gap to 6 points with three minutes to go. As Caserta struggled to manufacture good looks, Lyday took matters into his own hands and Unics broke down Caserta’s full court press to stay in front the rest of the way, even as Williams again managed a three-point play. The final score settled at 84-90, leaving the quarterfinals wide open with Game 2 on the way.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011