Ayon stood tall as Zenit's unsung hero

Dec 20, 2019 by Euroleague.net Print
Ayon stood tall as Zenit's unsung hero

Zenit St Petersburg's record shows four victories and three of them have come on the road. After registering its first two after overtimes at Olympiacos Piraeus and Zalgiris Kaunas, Zenit somehow managed to top the drama on Thursday night by edging Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul on a three-pointer by Andrew Albicy with 2.6 seconds to go.

"This is an amazing feeling, you feel like the best player in the world," Albicy said in a post-game interview. "Gustavo [Ayon] saw me open, gave me the ball and I made it. I am so happy I got this win for us because we need that for confidence for the next game."

It was a shining moment for Albicy, but up to that point, Zenit's main protagonists in the memorable game were forward Mateusz Ponitka and the man who set up Albicy for the game-winner – Ayon.

Ponitka led Zenit with 16 points and a career-high 8 assists, which doubled his previous career-high in assists. But the man who really stepped it up in the fourth quarter was the big man. Ayon scored 8 of his 12 points in the final 5 minutes and 10 seconds of the game and dished 5 assists himself.

About 50 seconds after he was called for his fourth personal foul, Ayon started a 0-7 run with a layup-plus-foul midway through the fourth quarter. He missed the ensuing free throw, but on the next trip down the floor kicked it out to Dmitry Khvostov for a three-pointer. Ayon scored on a fast break to cap a run that turned a 72-67 deficit into a 72-74 lead and then scored after a perfectly executed pick-and-roll with Khvostov to make it 74-76.

Ayon did not leave the floor despite the foul trouble and he was not done. In the final minute, Ayon fought hard to score a layup and restore a Zenit lead, 78-80, with 33 seconds to go, then on the final possession and with the game tied at 81-81, he used all that scoring to draw attention to himself under the rim. But Ayon did not try to be the hero, he rather found Albicy in the corner and the point guard hit one of the biggest shots of his career.

During the fourth quarter, Ayon also reached a personal milestone of 1,500 points for his EuroLeague career. A two-time EuroLeague champion with Real Madrid, Ayon leads Zenit this season in scoring (13.1 ppg.), rebounds (5.4 rpg.) and steals (1.3 spg.), but more than the numbers it is his play like in the fourth quarter against Fenerbahce that speaks most about the impact he is making for Zenit in its premier EuroLeague season.