Zenit Puts Pressure On Krasnodar

Zenit defeated Tsmoki-Minsk in St. Petersburg, 105-77. The outcome of the game was decided in the 3rd quarter as the home team picked up a double-digit advantage and cruised to victory the rest of the way.

Thanks to the win, St. Petersburg stays alive in the hunt for 3rd place, moving within half a game of Lokomotiv-Kuban.

Though Tsmoki-Minsk had already been eliminated from playoff contention, the visitors got off to a quick start. Branko Mirkovic led the way, scoring eight points to go with five assists in the opening period, including multiple feeds to Garrett Stutz. Trailing by as much as seven, Zenit clawed its way back, picking up a 28-26 advantage at the end of the 1st quarter.

Minsk kept the score close in the second period. Anthony Hilliard and Justin Gray took over for Mirkovic, putting the Dragons back on top. Once again, the visitors led by as much as seven, before surrendering the advantage in the final minutes of the first half. Nikita Barinov, Alexander Karpukhin and Ryan Toolson gave Zenit a three-point edge entering halftime, 51-48.

St. Petersburg began pulling away in the 3rd quarter. A quick 7-0 run to open the second half (Pushkin scored inside, Berzins hit from the perimeter and Dowdell converted on a fast break) put the home team on top by 10, 58-48. That run proved decisive. Stutz and Mirkovic had a bit of success on offense, but it wasn't enough to prevent Zenit from amassing a 13-point lead, 76-63, to start the 4th quarter.

The final period was all Zenit as Vasily Karasev's club outscored Tsmoki 29-14 down the stretch, picking up a valuable win with only two weeks to go in the regular season.

Star Player
Zabian Dowdell. The American was extremely active in Zenit's decisive 3rd-quarter run and finished with 15 points to go with seven assists.

Stat of the Game
105 - number of points scored by the home team, the 8th time the club has scored over 100 points this season. The offense carried Zenit on Thursday with six players scoring 10 or more points.

Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev:
- This was a needed and important win. After several good games, we were concerned the guys might relax and we worked most on that aspect. But we scored 50 points in the first half, though we gave up 49, while Minsk was fresher. After halftime, we scored just as many, but gave up less than 30. The difference in defense made itself known.

Tsmoki-Minsk head coach Igor Grishchuk:
- Everything was decided during five minutes in the 3rd quarter when we fell apart. After that, we couldn't get anything to work. We need to be more aggressive on defense. We didn't have enough people in the rotation. Zenit has more players.