Baron lifts Zenit past Kazan in thriller
In an all-Russian opening game, Zenit St Petersburg recorded its first win of the 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season by downing UNICS Kazan 69-70 on the road on Friday. Conner Frankamp led the winners with 18 points in his EuroLeague debut. Billy Baron added 17 while Jordan Loyd had 10 for Zenit. Isaiah Canaan led UNICS with 18 points, all in the second half. Mario Hezonja added 14 and John Brown 10 for the hosts. John Brown and Mario Spissu fueled a 12-0 run that allowed UNICS to get a 24-18 margin early in the second quarter. Frankamp put Zenit ahead 25-26 but Lorenzo Brown helped UNICS tie 33-33 at halftime. Andrey Vorontsevich later struck from downtown to lift UNICS ahead by 47-41, but Baron and Arturas Gudaitis fueled a 0-10 run that gave Zenit a 49-51 edge after 30 minutes. Baron got help from Gudaitis and Dmitry Kulagin to send Zenit comfortably in front, 54-66, before UNICS tried to come back late, but fell just short.
Jordan Mickey got Zenit going with a five-meter jumper but UNICS soon found a go-to guy in Hezonja, who struck twice from downtown and added a jumper and a coast-to-coast dunk for a 10-7 lead. Alex Poythress scored down low and Frankamp added a three-point play to put Zenit ahead, 10-12. Tonye Jekiri swished a mid-range jumper but Loyd, Andrey Zubkov and Poythress each scored around the basket to boost the guests' lead to 12-18. John Brown and Lorenzo Brown rescued UNICS and Mario Spissu hit a buzzer-beating jumper off a steal for a 22-18 UNICS lead after 10 minutes. John Brown capped UNICS’s 12-0 run with a close basket early in the second quarter. Frankamp stepped up with back-to-back triples and soon Zenit had a 25-26 edge. Artem Klimenko and John Brown each hit a jump hook but Baron kept his team ahead, 29-31. Jekiri sank another jumper and Lorenzo Brown added a coast-to-coast layup for a 33-33 tie at halftime.
Hezonja scored again after the break and Canaan added a three-pointer to make Zenit call timeout at 38-33. Loyd responded with a wild four-point play, then got help from Ponitka and Poythress to send Zenit ahead again, 40-41. Canaan kept pacing UNICS with a driving layup, igniting a 7-0 run that Vorontsevich capped with a corner three-pointer that excited the crowd at 47-41. Baron followed a jumper with a triple and Gudaitis dunked twice in a 10-0 run that gave Zenit fresh air at 47-51. John Brown beat the shot clock with a layup that fixed the score at 49-51 for Zenit after 30 minutes. Baron insisted from downtown early in the fourth quarter and Gudaitis hit a jumper for a 50-56 Zenit lead. Kulagin scored in penetration and added a jumper that made it a double-digit game, 50-60. A red hot Baron buried back-to-back bombs from beyond the arc give his team a 54-66 margin with over 3 minutes left. Canaan buried 3 consecutive three-pointers and added a put-back basket, then Hezonja scored in penetration as UNICS closed within 67-70 UNICS with 19.4 seconds left. Canaan scored again off a Zenit timeout but the guests ran down the game clock on the final possession to escape with the victory.
Billy Baron made the difference in the second half with his outside shooting, especially in one-on-one situations, opening the floor for other players like Arturas Gudaitis and Dmitry Kulagin. Baron finished the game with 17 points, making 4 of 8 three-pointers and adding 4 rebounds for a PIR of 14.
UNICS led 47-41 but Zenit finally found answers on offense through Billy Baron, who beat the shot clock with a wild jumper and added a couple of three-pointers. Arturas Gudaitis dunked twice and Dmitry Kulagin followed a driving layup with a mid-range jumper, giving Zenit its first double-digit lead, 50-60, with under 7 minutes left.
Rebounds and free throw accuracy arguably were the biggest keys to this game. Zenit outrebounded UNICS by 26-40, pulling down as many as 12 offensive boards. Zenit was almost perfect from the foul line, hitting 12 of 13 attempts (92.3%). UNICS struggled at the foul line, making just 8 of 15 shots there (53.3%), which proved fateful to the outcome
Did you know?
Despite facing each other many times in domestic action, UNICS and Zenit had never shared the floor in EuroLeague action. Both teams, however, had played against each other in the 7DAYS EuroCup, in which UNICS beat Zenit four times – twice each in 2015 and 2019.
Both teams return to Turkish Airlines EuroLeague action next week. Zenit visits Zalgiris Kaunas on Thursday, October 7 at 19:00 CET, in a special game for Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Gudaitis. A day later, on Friday, October 8, UNICS hosts AS Monaco in a rematch of last season's EuroCup Finals.
Friday, October 1, 2021