Zenit St. Petersburg blasts Szolnoki Olaj to boost Last 32 hopes
Zenit St. Petersburg routed Szolnoki Olaj 81-61 to boost its Last 32 hopes. The outcome not only gives Zenit, which improved to 3-3, a two-victory lead over Olag in the Group D standings, but a crucial tiebreaker if necessary; Olaj defeated Zenit by 2 when they met last month in Hungary. Since that game, Olaj has lost five in a row. Walter Hodge paced Zenit with 20 points, Kyle Landry scored 14 and Cameron Jones 13 for the winners.
Olaj started strong with leads of 2-9 and 13-16, however the hosts used an 8-0 run bridging the first and second quarter to take the lead for good and scored 12 unanswered points in the second en route to a commanding 45-26 halftime lead. The difference crossed into the 20s early in the third quarter and the home team cruised the rest of the way. Peter Lorant paced Olaj with 13 points and 7 rebounds.
Dejan Borovnjak got Zenit on the scoreboard first, before Lorant knocked down a three and Marton Bader scored twice as Olaj took a 2-9 lead. Dmitriy Kulagin’s three tied the game at 11-11, but the visitors edged ahead again. It was 13-16 after Lorant split free throws. Cameron Jones scored twice as Zenit took a slim lead, 17-16, after 10 minutes. Hodge sank free throws and Artem Vikhrov boosted the hosts’ advantage to 5 early in the second quarter. Lazeric Jones scored inside for Olaj before Zenit stormed out with a 12-0 run in which Kyle Landry and Hodge each scored 4 points. Lazeric Jones and Lorant tried to keep the visitors in the picture at 35-22 and Krisztian Wittmann added a three a little later, but Hodge countered from downtown and finished the half with another three for a commanding 45-26 lead at the break.
Hodge was fouled shooting a three to start the second half and made the corresponding free throws. Cameron Jones extended the Zenit lead to 24 before Stefan Sinovec answered for Olaj with a three. Sinovec and David Vojvoda trimmed the gap to 54-33, but Vikhrov then scored twice – the second a basket-plus-foul – as Zenit stormed ahead 63-36. Hodge’s third three gave him 20 points and put the hosts up 28. Wittmann and Lazeric Jones made it 68-43 through three quarters. Cameron Jones opened the fourth with a triple. Marko Brkic helped Olaj close the difference a bit, but never enough to threaten. A mini-run in the final minute put the gap at 20, but Zenit was already celebrating by that point.