Poor shooting leaves Zalgiris winless in double week 18
Zenit St Petersburg held firm to take a 77-65 victory over Zalgiris Kaunas in a closely contested showdown on Friday night. There was nothing between the teams in a first half that ended 36-36 after 13 ties, but Zenit took charge during the second half to gradually establish a solid lead and protect its position in the playoffs places.
Arturas Gudaitis led Zenit with 15 points and 8 rebounds, while Mateusz Ponitka also scored 15 and Billy Baron added 11.
Thomas Walkup top scored for Zalgiris with 12 points, with Joffrey Lauvergne (11), Lukas Lekavicius (11) and Marius Grigonis (10) also scoring in double figures.
Zenit improves to 12-6 and Zalgiris drops to 11-9 after suffering two defeats this week.
Ponitka glided to the basket to open the scoring, before Walkup responded with a floater. Lauvergne’s three-point play gave Zalgiris its first lead and Grigonis struck from deep, but Ponitka responded from beyond the arc for a 10-8 lead. Augustine Rubit and Rokas Jokubaitis sent Zalgiris in front, but Andrey Zubkov and Baron swished triples to make it 17-14 after ten minutes.
Jokubaitis scored 4 points early in the second to tie it up, 19-19, and the low scoring continued as neither team netted a field goal for more than two minutes. Zubkov dunked and KC Rivers nailed a mid-range jumper, but Jokubaitis and Lauvergne kept Zalgiris level. Ponitka struck from the corner but Grigonis responded with a three-point play, 27-27. Austin Hollins dunked, Arturas Milaknis and Vitaly Fridzon struck from deep, before Jokubaitis and Lauvergne combined for an alley-oop and it was 36-36 at the break.
Gudaitis opened the second half’s scoring, but Milaknis again hit from deep. Two more inside scores for Gudaitis gave Zenit fresh air, Ponitka stretched the lead to 47-41, and four points from Anton Pushkov maintained the advantage. Baron struck from beyond the arc, making it 56-49 at the end of the third.
Lekavicius pulled Zalgiris closer with five points early in the fourth, but Hollins hit a pair of jumpers to make it 62-54. Baron added another triple and Zubkov did likewise for a 68-56 lead with four minutes remaining. Nigel Hayes gave Zalgiris hope from long-range, but Kevin Pangos struck from beyond the arc and Zenit’s defense held firm the rest of the way.