By Eurohoops Team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Evgeny Voronov scored a season-high 21 points as Zenit St. Petersburg beat Olympiacos Piraeus 91 – 87 at home and swept the Greek side in the EuroLeague regular season. The Russian team repelled its opponents’ persistent comeback efforts in crunch time and Vassilis Spanoulis, in particular.
Spanoulis dropped a season-high 31 points (plus seven assists) in the second-highest scoring performance of his career and made a 3-pointer for the 86 – 83 with 13 seconds remaining. Zenit players kept their cool from the line to remain at a distance that forced Olympiacos to foul them and when Kostas Papanikolaou hit the triple for the 90 – 87, one free throw by Andrew Albicy with two seconds left was enough for Zenit to seal the win.
Gustavo Ayon had 15 points, Will Thomas 10 while Andrew Albicy contributed eight assists, six points, and two steals that both led to transition buckets for Zenit. The hosts had taken a 10-point lead with 1:30 remaining when Thomas hit a pair of free throws for the 84 – 74 with 1:30 remaining to cap an 8-0 run for his team.
“Our defensive rebounds were the key. Colton Iverson really helped us on the boards. He had a great game rebounding and we were able to run because of it. We are getting better, getting used to playing with each other. We’ve been working hard this season to get to this point,” Thomas said.
Spanoulis, together with Giorgos Printezis (20 points, seven rebounds) and Papanikolaou (20 points, five rebounds) had helped the Reds to return from down 11, 64 – 53, near the end of the third period.
“We deserved this victory today,” Zenit coach Joan Plaza said. “We suffered a lot, especially in the first half when we let them grab a lot of offensive rebounds. They got just 3 of them in the second half and it means we did a great job. We could have won earlier, but every time we needed to break them, we either made a turnover or made a difficult shot. Anyway, if you look at the stats you will see that they have just five players [who scored] and we have almost everybody except for Pushkov, who spent on court 8 seconds.”
Zenit improved to 7 – 14 while Olympiacos dropped to 8-13 after this result.
Three Olympiacos players scored 71 out of their team’s 94 points while five of their teammates went scoreless. The “Reds” couldn’t match Zenit’s performance without more players providing, according to coach Giorgos Bartzokas.
“We needed a better offensive and defensive game to beat Zenit today,” Bartzokas said. “We needed more players to contribute defensively and offensively. I think the main problem was in the third quarter we missed all the 50-50 balls, balls we needed to get in rebounding and I think these kinds of possessions created the game. Zenit found confidence from second chances. The other thing, in my opinion, whenever we were close, in a tight game, we turned the ball over. When we came back and we were 2 points down. It is not that we did not score, but we turned the ball over and gave an opportunity to our opponent to score in transition. To win on the road you need to stay in the game plan and find players who are in good shape, and we did not have that today.”
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball