VEF defeated Astana at home, 73-62 (14-13, 11-11, 18-17, 30-21).
VEF: Janis Blums (18+7 reb), Kristopher Richard (17), Martins Meiers (9+11 reb)
Astana: Rob Lowery (16), Rod Odom (14), Ousman Krubally (10+6 reb), Ian Miller (10+5 reb)
VEF and Astana are both in position to the make the playoffs. Sitting in a three-way tie with Enisey, the winner of this game had a chance to take over sole possession of 6th place and cut the deficit to two games on 5th-place UNICS.
The first half featured multiple lead changes and some wild swings. VEF enjoyed the early advantage, going up 14-7 midway through the opening period.
Astana responded with a 6-0 run to close the quarter and even led by three early in the 2nd after a Ian Miller 3-pointer, 19-16.
At halftime, VEF nursed a one-point lead thanks to a pair of free throws from Kristopher Richard, 25-24.
The visitors scored the first seven points of the 3rd quarter behind a pair of Rob Lowery layups. Leading by multiple possessions, Astana’s offense abruptly shut down over the final 3:18 of the 3rd quarter, allowing VEF to scored seven unanswered and ease into the lead.
The home team stayed hot to open the 4th. Janis Blums converted 2-3 at the line after getting fouled on a three-point attempt and new signing Gints Antrops knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a seven-point game, 48-41.
Astana didn’t have an answer down the stretch. The visitors never got closer than five points the rest of the way, giving up 30 points in the final quarter after limiting VEF to 18 or less in the first three periods.
VEF wins, 73-62, improving to 9-9 on the season, while Astana drops to 8-10 and 8th place.
5 – Astana only took five free throws in the game, compared to 15 for VEF. Combined with 35% shooting inside the arc, the visitors simply didn’t have enough offense.
VEF head coach Janis Gailitis:
– I’m grateful to my players. They competed today. That’s why we won the rebounding battle, which ended up being a major factor. We played okay on defense. Some things didn’t work on offense, but we hit our shots when we needed them. We took advantage of Astana’s roster problems, when their leaders got into foul trouble. At the end, we had more energy in the 4th quarter and were able to pull away.
Astana head coach Ilias Papatheodorou:
– We expected a tough game. We knew how good our opponent is. Our issue was that we played in the Kazakhstan Cup last week and our foreign players weren’t able to participate, which took us out of our rhythm a little bit. But VEF hit tough shots in big moments today. Their leader Janis Blums played a big role in the win. We were ready for that, but couldn’t respond. We have four more games and will try to come out on top in them.
VEF: March 26 at Kalev
Astana: April 2 at Enisey