Astana Comeback Stuns UNICS

Astana Comeback Stuns UNICS

Astana Kazakhstan defeated UNICS Russia on the road, 98-95 (21-22, 25-25, 26-20, 26-28).

Top Scorers
UNICS: Pierria Henry (34 + 7 ast), Raymar Morgan (20 + 5 reb), Jamar Smith (12)

Astana: Michael Jenkins (24), J.J. O’Brien (18 + 13 reb), Anthony Clemmons (16 + 6 ast), Ken Horton (12), Stephen Holt (12)

Astana picked up a sensational win in Kazan on Saturday night to improve to 12-6 and continue its fairy-tale season. 

The visitors trailed by eight points, 89-81, after Pierria Henry knocked down a jumper for UNICS with 2:30 remaining. 

J.J. O’Brien sparked the comeback with a triple, while Michael Jenkins converted a huge three-point play and knocked the go-ahead 3-pointer (92-91) with 30 seconds on the clock. 

The home team, seemingly assured of a 15th win and two-game lead in 2nd place, failed to score on the next possession and Astana held on for the miracle comeback at the free-throw line.

The result has huge implications for the League standings. Astana continues its second-half surge, winning its fifth-straight to move within half a game of Khimki for 4th place and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. 

UNICS drops to 14-4 and now travels to Krasnodar to play 3rd-place Lokomotiv-Kuban with 2nd place on the line. Kazan’s hopes of catching CSKA for 1st place also took a big blow with the Army Men leading the Tatars by two and a half games. 

The game was up and down from start to finish, featuring 14 lead changes and 14 ties. 

Neither team could gain much traction in the first half. Astana was slightly better for much of the 2nd quarter, leading by as much as six, 46-40, with a minute to play before halftime. But UNICS closed the period on a 7-0 run, including Trent Lockett’s deep 3 at the buzzer, and took the momentum into halftime. 

Astana responded with a big 3rd quarter, highlighted by a late 7-0 run that gave the Kazakhs their biggest lead of the game, 67-60, with a little more than two minutes remaining. 

Trailing 72-67 entering the 4th quarter, UNICS clawed its way back with ferocious defense, holding Astana to nine points over the first eight minutes. 

That resulted in a huge 13-point swing with Pierria Henry’s jumper at the 2:30 mark seemingly ensuring a UNICS victory (89-81). 

But Astana was not done, blitzing the home team for 17 points over the final 2:30 to secure a dramatic upset on the road. 

34 – Pierria Henry poured in 34 points for UNICS on 14-18 shooting, but it wasn’t enough to stop Astana. 

UNICS head coach Dimitris Priftis: “First of all, congratulations to Astana. Second, it’s obvious we took the court with the wrong attitude for the game. We gave up 46 points in the first half. We played hard in the second half and even led by eight points. But we didn’t play smart and ultimately lost. The bigger problem is not that we lost, but the way we came out for the game. You are what you do every day. You can’t play one game well, then forget who you are in another.”

Astana head coach Emil Rajkovic: “This was a very interesting game. Both teams scored a lot of points. UNICS was the favorite today, but it’s obvious that the two-week break affected their rhythm and level of play. I want to say that I’m proud of my guys and the way they responded to the game plan I gave them, especially in the second half. At the end, I think we really wanted to avoid the same mistakes we made in the first game in Astana, when we lost because of a single rebound. Today, even when we played five smaller guys, we were able to grab that rebound. That’s why I’m happy.” 


02/03/2019 UNICS-Astana 95:98