UNICS Kazan hosts Zielona Gora Poland in a regular-season match-up.
Basket Hall (capacity 7,000), Kazan, Russia
6:00 PM (6:00 MSK), October 20, 2018
Face to Face
This is not the first time these two teams have met. Back in 2016, UNICS lost to Zielona Gora in the EuroCup round of 16.
That was a bitter loss for Kazan, which had opened the series with a four-point win in Poland. In the return game in Kazan, Zielona Gora stunned the Russians by winning 71-54. The top scorer in the game was Zielona Gora’s Mateusz Ponitka–who signed with Lokomotiv-Kuban over the summer–with 18 points.
During the 2013-14 season, UNICS and Zielona Gora met in the EuroCup group stage. Kazan won twice and finished first in the group with a 5-1 record. The Poles fared much worse, posting a 1-5 record to finish in last place.
Zielona Gora became the first League rookies to win their season opener since Zenit in 2014, taking down Tsmoki-Minsk on the road, 88-71. Having entered the season with playoff ambitions, the four-time Polish champs know it’s much too early to celebrate. Now they face their first serious test on Saturday in Kazan. This game should be a better indicator of Zielona Gora’s strength and potential this season.
Of course, we have to mention that the Poles have disrupted UNICS’s green monopoly. The League’s first green rivalry may be starting.
Balance of Power
UNICS has enjoyed a promising start. Despite injuries, Kazan has two wins in the League and three in the EuroCup. Earlier this week, the Russians defeated Torino Italy at home, 92-78.
Zielona Gora is also undefeated. The Poles added three wins in the domestic PLK league to the victory over Minsk and tops the Polish standings. On Tuesday, Igor Jovovic’s men demolished Gliwice at home, 104-76.
Pierria Henry vs. Lukasz Koszarek
Zielona Gora’s first game in the League showed how important the point guard position is to the team’s success. The Belarusians gave the experienced playmaker too much space as Koszarek was able to run Zielona Gora’s pick-and-roll offense with little resistance.
UNICS point guard Pierria Henry has a contrasting style, often creating his own scoring opportunities, including pull-up jumpers from long range, and keeping the ball for long stretches on offense. It’s working so far. Henry, however, will also be charged with neutralizing his opposite number in Koszarek, and disrupting the Zielona Gora attack in the process. If he’s successful, the visitors will be in a lot of trouble on Saturday.
UNICS is the favorite entering the game. The Poles will need several things to go their way if they want to leave Kazan with a win. Three-point shooting could be one such factor.
Zielona Gora thrived beyond the arc in Minsk, knocking down 11 of 23 attempts (48%). The 3rd quarter was the turning point, as the League rookies shot 6-11 from three and swung the momentum in the game. Boris Savovic led the way for the Poles, drilling three 3-pointers and finishing with 18 points.
UNICS head coach Dimitris Priftis: “We’ve got a tough game ahead of us. Zielona Gora plays team basketball, uses pick-and-rolls effectively and does a good job of reading the game. This is a very experienced team, which shoots extremely well from distance. We need to prepare very seriously for the upcoming game.”
Zielona Gora head coach Igor Jovovic: “UNICS has big ambitions every season, like the other top Russian clubs. Kazan has the ability to reach the EuroLeague and they’ve assembled an excellent roster this season. UNICS has already defeated Lokomotiv-Kuban and the team is riding high. We know who we are facing and we also know how to play against an opponent like this. We’re ready for any turn of events. This will be a tough game.”