Zadar of Croatia put itself in a position to make the Final Eight by upsetting Unics Kazan 69-71 on the road in Group J on Tuesday for its second consecutive two-point victory over the new Russian Cup champions. Zadar improved to 2-2 and can now secure a Final Eight ticket with a home win over Turk Telekom next week. Unics fell to 1-3 and no longer controls of its own destiny as even victories in both remaining Last 16 games guarantee its survival. Rok Stipcevic became the hero of they day for Zadar by hitting the game-winning layup in the last half-minute, after Unics had rallied to tie. Hrvoje Peric scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half and pulled down 10 rebounds for the winners. Todor Gecevski also registered a double-double for Zadar - 14 points and 11 rebounds - while Damir Rancic added 10 points and Stipcevic finished with 9. Kresimir Loncar almost saved Unics by netting 10 of his 17 points in the final 5 minute for the hosts. Terrel Lyday collected 12 points, 5 steals and 3 assists, Marco Popovic produced 11 points and Dmitry Sokolov had 10. With only seconds left on the clock, Popovic dunked to even the game at 69-69, but missed a potential game-winning triple, his eighth miss from behind the arc. What hurt Unics most was free-throw shooting: the hosts made only half of their attempts (14 of 28), while the visitors hit 79% of theirs (27 of 34).
Vladimir Veremeenko slammed off a Petr Samoylenko dish to open the scoring and get the 5.500 Basket-Hall crowd going at the start of the game, and after layups by Igor Zamanskiy and Lyday the hosts were in front at 6-2. Tomislav Ruzic came through with 4 of the visitors' 6 points at the other end to almost even the score at 9-8. Unics kept attacking as Sokolov was good for a layup and Lyday made a three-point-play. But Zadar just wouldn't let the margin grow, trimming it from 14-8 to 14-13 thanks to a bucket by Jere Macura and a three-pointer by Stipcevic. Then Peric tied the game at 16-16, before Marko Popovic closed the first quarter with 2 free throws for an 18-16 Unics lead. Juby Johnson tied it again at 18-18 at the beginning of the second quarter, but then Eugeny Voronov scored for Unics before Marc Jackson, who didn't play in the opening quarter, took over for the hosts. He showed what a complete player he is by making a layup, drilling a three-pointer and finally grabbing an offensive rebound for a three-point play. By the time Jackson was finished with his one-man 8-0 run, Unics advantage was up at 28-18. But once again Zadar stayed unimpressed as 4 straight points by Macura and a triple by Toni Prostran cut it to 28-25. Then Gecevski stepped up with 6 points, and now it was even again at 32-32. Loncar made the first half's last shot to make it 35-32 at halftime.
Alhough Loncar made the first shot of the second half, Peric hit a triple and 5 points in a 2-9 Zadar run that gave the visitors their first lead all night, 39-41. Popovic and Lyday helped Unics regain the lead, but Gecevski gave headaches to the hosts' defense, drawing fouls to earn trips to the free throw line on consecutive possessions. Also Ruzic hit free throws, and the scoreboard confirmed that the game was as close as it could be: 47-47. Sokolov put Unics back in front, but the hot Peric dunked off an offensive rebound and then added 2 free throws, and it was 49-51 with 10 minutes to go. Peric was ready with another basket - this time a three-point-play - at the start of the fourth quarter. Then he assisted to Damir Rancic for a lay-up to expand the advantage to 49-56. Popovic scored a two-pointer and Locar split free throws, but Stipcevic and Rancic answered with 5 straight points for the guests, and now the hosts' were in trouble, trailing 52-61 with 7 minutes to go. After a timeout called by Unics head coach Aco Peterovic, Loncar scored a layup, but at the other end Rancic drew a foul while shooting a triple and made all 3 free throws. Loncar muscled in another layup despite being fouled, but missed the additional free throw. Then Alexey Zhukanenko dunked, but Peric did exactly the same on the guests' following possession. Lyday found Popovic for a three-pointer to renew Unics' hope with just less than 3 minutes left: 61-66. After a Zadar timeout, Popovic assisted to Loncar who nailed another Unics triple to cut it to 64-66. Rancic drew a foul and didn't miss, before Johnson stole the ball and Macura drew another foul for the guests, splitting his free throws to make it 64-69 with just over a minute to go. But Loncar hit another three-pointer and after Unics' made a defensive stop, the 1.85-meter Popovic dunked to even the score at 69-69. Zadar also had a point-guard who could get to the glass: Stipcevic beat Unics' defense with a layup, and after Popovic missed a potential game-winning three-pointer, Zadar could sigh with relief and go back to Croatia with a 69-71 win.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009