Unics took a huge step towards the ULEB Cup semifinals by downing Montepaschi Siena 83-53 in the first leg of the two-way quarterfinal series in Kazan, Russia, on Tuesday afternoon. The teams travel from the heart of Russia to the heart of Tuscany, Italy, for next Tuesday's return leg, which will determine which team advances to the semifinals against the winner of the Crvena Zvezda-Real Madrid series. However for Montepaschi, the hopes are now very slim as the club will need a miracle to advance. The hosts started on fire and built a 22-8 lead after 10 minutes and never gave to Siena the opportunity to come back, improving the margin minute-by-minute until it lead 68-37 early in the last quarter. An impressive three-point shooting performance – 13-of-23 – helped Unics, which had five scorers in double figures led by 17 points from Saulius Stombergas. Jarod Stevenson tallied 13 with 3-of-4 from downtown, Darjus Lavrinovic finished with 13 with 8 rebounds and 5 steals and his twin Ksistof Lavrinovic contributed 12 points and 9 boards. Jerry McCulllough added 11, Sergey Chikalkin 9 and Egor Meshcheryakov amassed 8 points and 9 rebounds. Rimas Kaukenas was the best contributor for Montepaschi, scoring 10 of his 16 points in the last quarter. Joe Forte added 13 points with 7 rebounds and Terrell McIntyre had 11, while Romain Sato had just 1 point with 8 rebounds.
Jerry McCullough opened the scoring from the foul line after getting fouled by Ben Eze and Egor Meshcheryakov doubled the lead by hosts converting an offensive rebound to make it 4-0. Both teams showed great defensive intensity as nobody scored for the next three-and-a-half minutes until Meshcheryakov posted a layup assisted by Stombergas. Forte scored from mid range for the guests after six missed attempts. McCullough grabbed a defensive rebound and ran for a score, causing Montepaschi to call timeout after 6 minutes played. But nothing changed for Siena, as Stevenson exploded with 5 straight points to put Unics up 13-2. McIntyre and Stombergas exchanged triples to go up 16-5 and then Forte missed one of his two free throws, but the hosts seemed to be unstoppable as Darjus Lavrinovic hit from downtown. Forte tried to keep his side closer, but Darjus Lavrinovic converted a three-point-play to fix the score at 22-8 for Unics after 10 minutes.
The teams were hot at the beginning the second quarter with McIntyre and Sergey Chikalkin scoring from downtown and then Ksistof Lavrinovic pushing his side to 27-11. Kaukenas kept Montepaschi in the game by posting two straight baskets to reduce the cushion to 28-15, but the hosts were focused on their target and Stevenson drilled another bomb for a 16-point lead. Siena seemed to be back on track when Eze scored in the paint and McIntyre hit a three to trim the gap to 34-22. But Stombergas showed why Unics is the best offensive team in the ULEB Cup with 7-0 run. Vladimer Boisa chipped in three free throws for Montepaschi, but Darjus Lavrinovic and twin brother Ksistof Lavrinovic made it 49-28 for Kazan at the halftime break.
Sato scored his first and only point of the night to open the second half, but Darjus Lavrinovic bagged another triple to make it 54-31. Siena was unable to stop the hosts and McCullough scored the ninth three-pointer of 13 attempted for Unics to go up 88-34 at the midway point of the third quarter. Stevenson ended three scoreless minutes by drilling a mid-range jumper for a 60-36 margin. McIntyre answered in the open court, and Stombergas, assisted by Petr Samoylenko, boosted Kazan again. Ksistof Lavrinovic and Eze made one free throw each to finish the third quarter at 63-37 for the home team.
Entering the last quarter there were no doubts as to the winner of the match, but Siena had to fight to reduce the difference thinking of the second leg. Ksistof Lavrinovic stopped their dream as he fueled Unics to 65-37 and Stevenson made it a 30+-point margin from downtown. Lonny Baxter made a dunk and Kaukenas hit a three and a pair of free throws for a 0-7 run for the guests to make it 68-44 with 5 minutes left. Meshcheryakov and Kaukenas converted three-point plays and Chikalkin's triple further rejected the guests. Stombergas boosted Unics over the 30-point margin once more from beyond the arc, 80-49. Forte posted a jumper and Eze a dunk, but McCullough completed the incredible night of Kazan shooters for an 83-53 final.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007