Kinsey leads Nizhny to first-ever Top 16 appearance
In a do-or-die game for both teams that went down to the final minute, Nizhny Novgorod reached the Top 16 from Group A by rallying to beat Unics Kazan 78-74 at home on Friday. Both teams finished the regular season with 5-5 records, but Nizhny qualified due to its sweping Unics during the season. Tarence Kinsey paced the winners with 23 points. Trey Thompkins added 17, while Dmitry Khvostov and Art Parakhouski each had 10 for Nizhny. Keith Langford led Unics with 24 points and 10 rebounds. James White added 15 points while Curtis Jerrells added 11 for the hosts, who overcame an early 7-0 deficit by using a 2-17 run to get an 11-19 lead after 10 minutes. Unics still led 35-42 behind a solid performance from White and Langford. Semen Antonov and Kinsey took over late in the third quarter to bring Nizhny within 54-56. A three-point play by Kinsey put Nizhny ahead for good, 61-60. Evgeny Baburin struck from downtown and Khvostov beat the shot clock with a nine-meter prayer that boosted the hosts' lead to 69-63. Nothing changed after that, as free throw accuracy allowed Nizhny to seal a truly historic win.
First quarter: Unics shakes off slow start
Art Parakhouski got Nizhny going with a layup, which Levan Patsatsia followed with a three-pointer. Unics kept missing shots and a layup by Kinsey capped a 7-0 Nizhny start. Nikos Zisis struck from downtown to trigger the Unics response. White followed a driving layup with a three-point play to give Unics its first lead, 7-8. Kinsey hit a turnaround jumper, which a red-hot White bettered with a three-pointer. Keith Langford took over with a wild driving basket, as Unics kept filling the passing lines to prevent Nizhny from circulating the ball well. Langford sank a stop-and-pop jumper in the lane and a layup by Zisis caused Nizhny to call timeout at 9-17, after a 2-17 run. Parakhouski stepped up with a put-back layup, but Unics kept excelling on defense. Langford shined with another driving layup to boost the guests' margin to 11-19 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Langford keeps Unics ahead
Fischer hit his trademark mid-range jumper early in the quarter to make it a double-digit game, 11-21. White hit foul shots, which Dmitriy Khvostov bettered with a wild four-point play. White and Parahouski exchanged mid-range jumpers. Free throws by Khvostov brought Nizhny a bit closer, 19-25. Langford and Evgeny Baburin traded three-pointers before a put-back layup by Viktor Sanikidze gave Unics fresh air at 22-30. Kinsey sank a four-meter jumper, which Sanikidze erased with a backdoor slam. Parakhouski dunked, but a three-pointer by Curtis Jerrells created a 26-35 Unics margin. Kinsey answered from downtown and added a technical free throw to get his team within 30-35. Langford stepped up with a five-meter jumper. Kinsey scored again, but a three-pointer by Zisis boosted the guests' margin to 32-40. A layup by Jerrells and free throws by Khvostov and Thompson fixed the halftime score at 35-42.
Third quarter: Nizhny reduces deficit
Fischer swished a mid-range jumper immediately after the break. Thompkins quickly answered with a tip-in, which Langford matched with another mid-range jumper. Thompkins struck from downtown to give Nizhny hope at 40-46. Kostas Kaimakoglou stepped up with a three-pointer, as Unics adjusted its defense to avoid easy shots in the paint. The hosts called timeout and Thompkins worked in the low post for a basket, which Langford improved on with an outstanding three-point play for a 42-51 Unics lead. Antonov answered from downtown and a layup in transition by Thompkins caused Unics to call timeout at 47-51. Langford hit a one-handed floater and a free throw by White gave Unics a 47-54 advantage. Antonov hit foul shots and matched Sanikidze's alley-oop layup with a put-back basket. Kinsey downed a three-pointer in transition to bring Nizhny within 54-56.
Fourth quarter: Nizhny makes history
Sergey Bykov fed White for a baseline jumper early in the quarter. Nizhny was held scoreless for two minutes, but Antonov banked in a running hook to make it 56-58. Fischer beat the shot clock with a mid-range jumper, which Parakhouski erased with a turnaround jumper. Kinsey took over with an off-balance three-point play, which completed the hosts' comeback, 61-60, with less than six minutes left. Baburin took over with a wild three-pointer, after which Unics called timeout at 64-60. Kinsey and Langford exchanged baskets and a free throw by Fischer kept Unics within 66-63. Khvostov took over with an off-balance three-pointer, but Jerrells banked in one from downtown. A six-meter jumper by Thompkins gave the hosts a 71-66 advantage with less than two minutes left. Langford split free throws and Thompkins did not miss from the foul line to seal the outcome, 73-67. Unics kept trying, but Nizhny had time to celebrate making history with a Top 16 spot in hand.