Nizhny and Zalgiris seal Euroleague Top 16 berths

Fri Dec 19, 2014 3:07pm EST
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By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Euroleague debutants Nizhny Novgorod and 1999 champions Zalgiris Kaunas booked the last two berths in the competition’s second group stage on Friday.

Nizhny overpowered more fancied fellow Russians Unics Kazan 78-74 thanks to an outstanding performance by forward Tarence Kinsey and Zalgiris progressed after a dramatic 80-79 defeat of Italians Dinamo Sassari.

Unics led for three quarters after a 23-4 run midway through the first half had put them in the driving seat but Nizhny produced a furious final period in which Kinsey and playmaker Dimitriy Khvostov nailed a barrage of three-pointers.

Kinsey led the winners with 23 points and six rebounds, his American compatriot Trey Thompkins scored 17 points and Khvostov added 10 in front of a fervent home crowd.

Versatile shooting guard Keith Langford stood out for Unics with 24 points but the home team’s aggressive defense ground his team mates to a halt in the fourth quarter.

“I said at halftime we had to stick to the game plan, come out and make some adjustments,” a delighted Kinsey told Euroleague television.

“I expect nothing but the best now and to make the playoffs. Nothing is impossible and we have to dream big.”

Zalgiris booked their passage into the Top 16, featuring two groups of eight teams, with a dramatic last-gasp comeback after controlling much of the game and spilling a 10-point lead.   Continued...