Following the win over Khimki in the VTB United League, Zenit forward Sergey Karasev shared his thoughts and noted that St. Petersburg could be a serious contender if it continues to improve at this rate.
– It feels great to win a game like this. All the guys gave 150%. We executed everything coach wanted for the game. What makes it even better is that everyone played for each other. The team was united. It’s twice as nice to win like this: both from an emotional and a competitive standpoint. No question, winning this game will be a huge positive for us in the future, – Karasev began.
– Was this your best game of the season so far?
– I think in terms of effort and teamwork, yeah, it was definitely our best game.
– Did this game mean more because Khimki kept you out of the EuroLeague last season?
– Maybe so. On the other hand, every game against another contender is big for us: Khimki, CSKA, UNICS, Loko. We need to try to avoid dropping points and win the road games, when we have a chance. We were able to do that today and it’s an excellent result.
– Was it sweet revenge?
– This is only the first step. Of course, we wanted to get revenge, but everything will be decided at the end of the season. That’s when we’ll be able to say if we got revenge or not. So far, everything is going well.
– People also looked at this as a rivalry game between Alexey Shved and Sergey Karasev. Alexey had 34 points, you had 12…
– We knew well before the game that Anthony Gill was injured and we found out right before the game that Thomas Robinson wouldn’t play. We expected that Alexey, like always, would be assertive and score the lion’s share of points. But Zenit still won (smiles).
– There was a play where you blocked Shved, and he poked you in the eye, and you looked pretty upset. Maybe this game was a must-win, after all?
– No, it wasn’t make or break. That was just an isolated play, nothing else. I was more upset they didn’t call a foul. But it was fine.
– What did coach say at halftime? What were you supposed to pay attention to?
– He said we need to play the same way on defense in the second half in order to win. To be fair, we weren’t quite able to do it: We fell apart on defense at the start of the 4th quarter. Khimki made a run, Shved hit some tough shots. But even though the fans were cheering them on, we played excellent basketball and didn’t crumble. We dug deep, regained a 10-point lead and closed out the win.
– At the beginning of the 4th quarter, did you have the feeling Khimki was going to catch up and take the lead? Were you afraid of them?
– To be honest, I think there was more pressure on them, than on us. We tried to play loose, especially since it was a road game. We knew we didn’t have an ideal roster, so we simply went out and tried to have fun. I think if we can play this type of basketball in every game, we can accomplish a lot this season.
– Have you ever seen people standing in the aisles and sitting on the steps at a Russian basketball game? The arena was buzzing!
– I want to say a huge thank you to the Russian Basketball Federation and VTB United League for making basketball popular. It’s clear that our sport has more fans now in Russia. It’s really great to see people at games. The arenas are filling up and the fans support us. If we keep going at this rate, we have a bright future. The national team only proved that point at EuroBasket this year.