UNICS Defends Home Court, Seizes 2-0 Lead

UNICS Kazan defeated Zenit St. Petersburg at home, 97-91, in Game 2 of the playoff semifinals. The home team led big at halftime, but Zenit mounted a 3rd-quarter comeback, erasing a 13-point deficit. Trailing by two with a minute to play, St. Petersburg had opportunities, but couldn't get shots to fall, suffering a six-point defeat. The battle on the Volga concludes with Kazan on top, 2-0, as the series shifts to the Neva.

Despite playing without leading scorer Ryan Toolson, Zenit got off to quick 7-2 start. Unlike Game 1, UNICS responded with a 14-4 run of its own, cruising to a 16-11 lead at the midway point of the 1st quarter.

Marko Banic and Quino Colom got UNICS going on offense, combining for 12 points in the opening period. Colom continued to lead the way in the 2nd, while Banic and Latavious Williams did the dirty work inside, putting the home team on top, 45-36, at halftime. Colom even knocked down a '3' in the final seconds of the half, finishing with 16 points in the opening 20 minutes.

Much like UNICS in Game 1, Zenit mounted a 3rd-quarter comeback, picking up the pace in transition. The visitors scored 32 points in the period, erasing a 13-point deficit as forward Janis Timma put Zenit ahead, 68-67, with a jumper at the buzzer.

Both teams turned up the physicality in the final period, but once again St. Petersburg was let down by mistakes and missed shots late.

With a minute to play, Omar Thomas pulled his team within two, 91-89.

Kazan responded by converting three of four free throws and scoring on a layup from Kaimakoglou that pushed the lead to seven. Zenit had chances, but Alexander Karpukhin and Timma couldn't convert from beyond the arc, dooming the visitors to a defeat.

Trailing 2-0 in the series, it's do or die for St. Petersburg at home.

Star Player
Quino Colom. The Game 1 star was at it again, finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and a 9-10 night at the charity stripe, including several clutch makes down the stretch.

Stat of the Game
53 - number of combined fouls. The Basket Hall parquet nearly buckled under the intensity of the game.

UNICS head coach Evgeny Pashutin:
- We expected a tough game and that's what happened. The intensity was crazy today! I have to give Zenit credit. Our opponent competed until the end of the game. We played good defense and led, but couldn't hang onto our advantage in the 3rd quarter. We lost our focus. It happens. We regained the lead and battled for every loose ball. That's the real playoffs. It's going to be even harder in St. Petersburg.

Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev:
- Another tough game. If UNICS gave 80%, then we gave all 120%, which is why we were competitive. We really missed Pushkov and Toolson. I told the guys before the game: "Play in such a way that you won't be embarrassed to look each other in the eyes later." That's how they played. They didn't crumble and battled to the end. We didn't have enough 3-pointers or made baskets in general. We'll prepare for Game 3.