Nanterre stings UNICS to stay alive
Nanterre 92 silenced Basket Hall Kazan with a 72-79 road win over UNICS Kazan on Wednesday. Facing potential elimination, Nanterre snapped a three-game slide in improving to 3-5 in Group C and keeping its Top 16 hopes alive. UNICS lost for the second week in a row and saw its record fall to 5-3. UNICS would have clinched a Top 16 berth had it won. After falling behind by double figures early, Nanterre erupted for 29 points in the second quarter to take a 36-42 halftime lead and only extended it in the second half. Dallas Moore paced the winners with 17 points, Kenny Chery added 14, Spencer Butterfield recorded 12 points and 7 rebounds and Taylor Smith posted 10 points, 9 boards and 2 blocks for Nanterre. Errick McCollum led UNICS with 17 points and 8 assists, Jamar Smith made 4 of 6 three-pointers for 16 points and Alex Tyus added 10 points and 2 blocks in defeat.
UNICS got out to a dream start with baskets on its first six possessions, including a vicious slam by Tyus and 5 points from Evgeny Kolesnikov to lead 13-4. Youssoupha Ndoye scored twice for Nanterre to narrow the gap, however, the hosts remained in control. A pair of Jamar Smith triples, including one on the fist-quarter buzzer, lifted UNICS to a 24-13 lead. Nanterre stepped up at the start of the second quarter with 8 unanswered points, including some big plays by Taylor Smith, to get back in the game. Jamar Smith sank a long jumper to end a 4-minute UNICS drought that made it 26-21. Nanterre battled back and a third-chance triple by Butterfield gave Nanterre its first lead, 30-31, with 3 minutes remaining in the half. A timeout did little to help UNICS as Moore extended the margin with another three. Butterfield drained another three to end the half with Nanterre surging ahead 36-42. Moore started the second half with another three-pointer, but UNICS fought back through Jamil Wilson and McCollum to bring UNICS within 42-47. Nanterre got threes by Moore and Damien Bouquet before Isaia Cordinier's free throws gave the visitors their first double-digit lead, 45-55, midway through the third quarter. The lead swelled to 48-62 on free throws by Butterfield and Ndoye. A dunk by Tyus revived UNICS, but a three by Pavel Sergeev only closed the gap to 55-64 after three quarters. McCollum made it a 7-point game only to see Moore and Devin Oliver restore a double-digit margin. Every promising basket by UNICS was answered by Nanterre as time started to run out for the hosts. Tyus gave UNICS hope at 65-71 with 3 minutes remaining, but when Chery responded with free throws and a fadeaway jumper, the arena fell silent. A late flurry of shots by Jamar Smith and Kolesnikov made it 72-77 with 19 seconds to go. Free throws by Butterfield iced the game for Nanterre.
Taylor Smith did not play in the first quarter. He entered the game for the second and his hustle was a big reason for the team's turnaround. Smith scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, grabbed 9 rebounds and blocked 2 shots in amassing a performance index rating of 19, which was the most on his team. More impressive is that in his 23 minutes on the floor, Nanterre outscored UNICS by 17 points! And in the minutes in which Smith sat, UNICS outscored Nanterre by 10!
UNICS's 16 turnovers proved to be a self-inflicted wound the team could not overcome. Nanterre turned those turnovers into 21 points. The visitors only turned the ball over 6 times and they resulted in only 4 UNICS points. Another lopsided stat was that Nanterre scored 21 second-chance points to just 4 for UNICS.
Top 16 implications
Ths result ensured that Group C will be one of the closest groups in the race for the Top 16 this season. The gap between the two teams tied for the bottom spot and the two teams tied for first will be two wins with two rounds remaining! UNICS needs only one more win to advance. Nanterre may need two.
Next week both teams are off in the EuroCup and they return to action on Wednesday, December 11. Nanterre faces a vital showdown with Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana at home. UNICS heads on the road to face Joventut Badalona.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019