UNICS Holds Off VEF In Kazan

UNICS defeated VEF at home, 82-72. Riga hung tough in the first half, but Kazan's defense took over in the second, limiting the visitors to 29 points. On offense, sharpshooter Keith Langford led all scorers with 27 points, helping Kazan to the 10-point win.

UNICS entered with a seven-game winning streak, two games back of 1st-place CSKA. Despite picking up three wins on the road this season, VEF was a heavy underdog, tied for 14th place with Kalev at 4-10.

The visitors, however, dealt the first blow, racing to a 15-11 lead in the opening five minutes. Janis Berzins and Francisco Cruz were impressive, forcing Evgeny Pashutin to call timeout midway through the period. Kazan responded to their coach, outscoring VEF 15-4 over the next five minutes to go on top, 26-19, at the end of the 1st quarter.

Cruz, however, refused to let UNICS get comfortable. The Mexican playmaker posted 14 points and five assists in the first half, helping VEF dominate the 2nd quarter and take a 43-42 lead into halftime.

Early in the 3rd quarter, UNICS went on a 9-0 run to regain its lead. Langford played a big part in Kazan's resurgence, dropping 14 points in the period to put the home team on top, 66-57, through three periods.

Turning Point
Each team scored just five points in the first five minutes of the 4th quarter. The slower pace played into Kazan's hands, helping Evgeny Pashutin's men fend off any VEF attempts at a comeback. After the visitors briefly cut the lead to seven, Quino Colom and Langford combined for a quick seven points to make it a 78-64 game. UNICS coasted from there, moving to 13-2.

Star Player
Keith Langford. UNICS's top scorer only had eight points in the first half, but he finished with 27, helping his team overcome a valiant effort from the Latvian visitors.

Stat of the Game
29 - number of points allowed by UNICS in the second half. In addition to Langford's offense down the stretch, Kazan locked down on defense, cutting VEF's production by 14 from the first half.

UNICS head coach Evgeny Pashutin:
- VEF is a serious team and we prepared carefully for the game. We had a lot of energy today and played well in the 1st, 3rd and 4th quarters. During the 2nd, we let our opponent get too many open looks, especially Cruz. After that, Langford played solid defense on him, while scoring against Cruz. We got better on the glass in the 3rd quarter and played smarter without rushing anything.

VEF head coach Janis Gailitis:
- UNICS is playing very well this season. On offense, they move the ball quickly and defend well. We tried to play physical, hard basketball, but UNICS players like Langford ruined our plans.