By Eurohoops Team/ email@example.com
Zenit Saint-Petersburg on the verge of entirely dropping a 23-point lead overcame second-half struggles for the win, 85-78, against Anadolu Efes at the Sibur Arena Thursday. The visitors were coming off eight consecutive wins in all competitions, including three straight in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Will Thomas got off to a hot start with 10 points in the first quarter and went on for a team-high 14 points. Austin Hollins and Kevin Pangos produced 13 points apiece. Red-hot Arturas Gudaitis punched in an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double. Andrey Zubkov at 11, Billy Baron at 10, and Mateusz Ponitka also made a double-digit scoring contribution.
“We expected a tough game,” said Gudaitis who suffered a minor ankle injury during the game, “They stepped up and we showed a little softness, but we won. I’m happy that I can help the team. The team standings are what’s most important.”
“We had some turnovers near the end, and it was about staying focused, finishing the game, getting the win,” added Thomas, “The last few games, I haven’t played up to my level. Tonight, I came out with a lot of energy and was able to help the team get the lead early and secure the win.”
Vasilije Micic matching up with former Zalgiris Kaunas teammate Pangos registered a game-high 23 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists in the losing effort. Shane Larkin scored 20 points despite being held to five in the first 20 minutes by the best defensive team of the 2020-21 EuroLeague season.
The Regular Season Round 21 victory marked the fourth W in a row at home for Xavi Pascual’s side. The Russian outlet jumped to a 47-24 lead with two minutes left in the first half but the visitors cut the deficit to five points with 2:29 remaining in the fourth quarter. Pangos with a couple of daggers from beyond the arc kept his side in control.
“Our first 20 minutes were probably our best in offense at home. We played extremely well,” pointed out Pascual, “I’m happy for this important win for us. We have team experience. We’re all on the same page. We can win, we can lose, but you saw a team that is fighting until the end of the game.”
Alex Poythress and Dmitry Khvostov remained sidelined. In addition, newcomer Tarik Black was not available. However, Zenit managed to move up to 13-6. A couple of games on the road are coming up next week, against FC Barcelona Tuesday and AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milano Thursday.
“We panicked after our bad start. We gave very easy buckets to our opponents. The second half was a different game,” noted Ataman, “But it is very difficult at the EuroLeague level to come back from 23 points on the road.”