UNICS gets road win in Vilnius
UNICS Kazan jumped out to a strong start in Group G of the Top 16 by downing Rytas Vilnius 86-91 in the Lithuanian capital on Wednesday. UNICS became the first team in the entire Top 16 to win on the road. Errick McCollum led the winners with 20 points, Jamar Smith and Raymar Morgan each added 16 and Valerii Likhodei had 10 for UNICS. Mindaugas Girdziunas and Eimantas Bendzius paced Rytas with 15 points apiece, Arnas Butkevicius added 13 and Tu Holloway 12 for the hosts. A three-pointer by Pako Cruz gave Rytas a 78-74 edge midway through the fourth quarter but Morgan and Jordan Theodore fueled a 0-10 run that sealed the outcome as Rytas never recovered.
McCollum got UNICS going with a stop-and-pop jumper and a three-pointer. Alex Tyus dunked and Theodore hit a floater that caused Rytas to call timeout at 2-9. A red-hot McCollum sank his second triple to make it a double-digit game. Bendzius followed a fallaway jumper with a bomb from downtown and got help from Butkevicius to bring the hosts within 9-14. Morgan stepped up with a put-back layup, but Bendzius kept pushing Rytas with 6 unanswered points to make it 15-16 score. Girdziunas bettered McCollum's jumper with a three-pointer and hit a mid-range shot to give Rytas its first lead, 20-18. Holloway kept the hosts ahead, 23-20, after 10 minutes. Smith struck from beyond the arc early in the second quarter and erased Deividas Sirvydis's driving layup with a jumper for a 25-25 tie. Holloway and Morgan each scored in the lane before Evaldas Kayris added a layup for a 29-27 Rytas lead. Bendzius took over with a driving layup and Cruz sank a pair of floaters to make it 35-29. Martinas Echodas buried a jump hook and Dovis Bickauskis added a put-back layup, but McCollum singlehandedly kept UNICS within striking distance. Smith downed a jumper to fix the halftime score at 39-36.
Smith and Wilson each hit a jumper to restore a 40-41 UNICS lead soon after the break. Morgan took over with a fastbreak layup and a red-hot Smith followed a jumper with a three-pointer to boost UNICS's margin to 41-47. Echodas and Girdziunas ignited a 6-0 run that Holloway capped with a driving basket to tie it at 47-47. Kaimakoglou struck from beyond the arc and Wilson dunked to give UNICS fresh air at 47-52. Evgeny Kolesnikov hit a triple and Smith banked in a floater, but Butkevicius and Kairys kept Rytas close. Kaimakoglou and Butkevicius each buried a three-pointer, but so did Kaimakoglou and Wilson for a 61-64 UNICS lead after 30 minutes. Girdziunas struck from beyond the arc early in the fourth quarter to tie the score. Likhodei sank a baseline jumper and improved on Butkevicius's dunk with a three-pointer, good for a 66-69 UNICS lead. Cameron Bairstow stepped up with 5 quick points and Girdziunas made a jumper to put the hosts ahead, 73-71, with over 6 minutes left. Likhodei insisted from downtown, but Echodas answered with a jump hook and Cruz downed a triple that boosted his team's lead to 78-74. Theodore followed a three-pointer with a jumper, igniting a 0-10 run in which Morgan also had 5 points to put UNICS ahead for good, 78-84, with 3 minutes to go. Rytas kept trying but McCollum kept UNICS in charge until the final buzzer.
Errick McCollum set the tone early and finished strong to lead UNICS to a big road win. He finished the game with 20 points on 4-of-6 two-point shooting, 2-of-6 on three-pointers and 6-of-7 free throws plus 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 6 fouls drawn for a PIR of 22.
A three-pointer by Pako Cruz gave Rytas a 78-74 margin midway through the fourth quarter, but UNICS improved its defense when it mattered most. Meanwhile, Theodore buried a three-pointer from the top of the key and added a jumper, then Morgan took over with a layup-plus-foul and hit a baseline shot for a 78-84 UNICS lead after a 0-10 run. Rytas never recovered after that.
Despite being heavily outrebounded, 36-21, UNICS took excellent care of the ball with just 10 turnovers and shot the ball well from all distances (69.7% 2FG, 44% 3FG, 85.7% FT).
Did you notice?
Martinas Echodas pulled down a career-best 14 rebounds. His previous best was 11 rebounds against Fiat Turin last season. He had 8 offensive boards, the second-best mark by a Rytas player in competition history - Lawrence Roberts pulled down 10 offensive rebounds against Le Mans on November 29, 2011.
Both teams return to 7DAYS EuroCup action next week in ROund 2 of the Top 16. UNICS hosts AS Monaco on Tuesday, January 14. Rytas visits Galatasaray Dogs Sigorta Istanbul the following day.
Wednesday, January 8, 2020