Maccabi Tel Aviv used a terrific third quarter to take a 82-71 win over Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia as the Yellow & Blue were victorious in their fourth game in a row to move their Euroleague record to 10-4. After a sloppy first half that saw the Yellow & Blue commit 11 turnovers, Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad put the pedal to the metal immediately after halftime to build a comfortable lead and hold off a late surge by the hosts.
Tyler Dorsey led Maccabi with 17 points, Othello Hunter added 15 points, Elijah Bryant chipped in with 12 points and Yovel Zoosman 9 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in the win. Zenit’s high scorers were Will Thomas with 15 points, Gustavo Ayon with 14 points and Tim Abromaitis added 10 points in the defeat.
Quincy Acy drilled a 3-pointer to open the game, while Othello Hunter scored inside as Yovel Zoosman dished out 3 assists early on in the first quarter as Gustavo Ayon countered for Zenit, but Maccabi took a 12-8 lead midway through the frame. Elijah Bryant scored a triple, however Andrew Albicy got active with an assist and points as did Ayon and Will Thomas but Tyler Dorsey and Deni Avdija scored as well as the frame ended deadlocked at 21-21.
Tim Abromaitis scored a triple to begin the second quarter but baskets by Avdija, Angelo Caloiaro and Dorsey helped Maccabi to a 7-0 run and a 28-24 advantage with 5:13 left in the half. Thomas, Colton Iverson and Ayon all found the basket as did Hunter with three free throws to give the Yellow & Blue a slim 31-30 lead after twenty minutes.
Hunter and Bryant along with Scottie Wilbekin’s first points led Maccabi to an 11-2 run to start the third quarter and race out to a 42-32 advantage. Hunter added another layup, Wilbekin found a back door cutting Bryant, Zoosman picked Renfroe’s pocket for an easy pair of points while the same Zoos fed a percent pass to Avdija for a corner triple as the Yellow & Blue ended the frame ahead by 17 points, 59-42.
Abromaits scored a 3-pointer and Iverson also put in points to cut the lead to 64-50 with 7:23 left in regulation time forcing Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos to call timeout. Thomas and Renfroe drilled home triples for the host’s but Dorsey and Wilbekin answered for Maccabi bringing the lead back up to 72-57 midway through the final frame. Joan Plaza’s squad didn’t give up easy as points by Abromaitis, Dmitry Khvostov and Vladislav Trushkin pulled the visitors to within 77-71 with under a minute remaining. But free throws by Dorsey and Zoosman closed out the 82-71 victory.
1) Maccabi Tel Aviv played a first half to forget, a half that saw them turnover the ball 11 times and play some pretty brutal basketball especially in the second quarter where they only scored 10 points. That was the bad news. The good news? Zenit was worse only putting in 9 points during that frame and as bad as Maccabi was they still were able to tale a 31-30 lead into halftime. Add to that Wilbekin who didn’t score over the first half while committing five of those 11 turnovers and you’ve got one pretty ugly half of ball.
2) The third quarter saw the 9-4 Yellow & Blue show up with a 28-12 frame and essentially run away with the win before the game even hit the final quarter. Maccabi committed only two turnovers as they began to see their offense flow scoring just three less points in ten minutes than they did in the first 20 minutes of action. Gustavo Ayon was extremely effective in the first half with 10 points, but scored only 2 points in the third quarter and none in the final frame. Maccabi cleaned up their act very, very quickly over halftime and made a game that was looking to be close into the exact opposite. Elijah Bryant spoke about what happened after halftime, “We locked in on getting stops and rebounds and we were able to go on a run. When they send five guys to the glass it gives us a chance to run and go on transition.” Tyler Dorsey also talked about transitioning from the first half to the start of the third quarter, “It was a tough first half and they were on the offensive glass all night especially in the first half. We limited them to one shot after the half and we were able to play transition. The starters started it off and the bench continued it.”
3) Speaking of Tyler Dorsey, he was fabulous for Maccabi. The guard scored 17 points in close to 23 minutes of action and came up big in the fourth quarter to steady the ship when Zenit began to make their run. After coming over from the NBA to Europe this season, Dorsey has really begun to understand the basketball that is played here. Yes, Dorsey has played for the Greek National Youth Teams in the past and he would like to play this summer for the senior team under Rick Pitino whom he will have a chance to impress on Thursday night when Panathinaikos comes to Yad Eliyahu for a visit, “We need to protect home court and we need the fans to be loud as we have the best court advantage in the Euroleague. They’re also a Greek team so that’s motivation for me.”
Othello Hunter somehow keeps coming up with huge performance after huge performance. Following the CSKA game where he played over 30 minutes he was soaking in an ice tub and after 15 points in 23 minutes he deserves another one. The big man is playing his best basketball and has been the veteran presence day in and day out. He was interviewed after the game and as usual didn’t look to take any credit, “Defensively I gave up too many offensive rebounds. I don’t care about how many points I’m scoring, if we’re not playing good defense then they can get back into the game quickly.”
Yovel Zoosman and Deni Avdija played terrific games for Maccabi. Zoos played 23 minutes and put up 9 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals while Avdija scored 7 points, grabbed 7 boards and added 3 assists in the victory. The young Israelis were key players in the win and as the season continues on they are coming more and more into their own. As each game goes by they are both being relied upon more and more by Coach Sfairopoulos especially with a short roster, but the experience they are gaining now will go a long, long way as the season progresses. “Every road game is tough,” explained Avdija. “Every team can win on any night. We had a short roster but winning on the road is great.”
They Said It..
Ioannis Sfairopoulos – “I want to congratulate my players on the win. It’s not easy to play 10 players in so many games over the last few days and that’s why we gave up some easy points. We did an excellent job and we continue.”
Scottie Wilbekin – “Everybody’s tired and hurt and we were all pushing through giving everything they’ve got. We did a great job in the second half picking up our energy level on defense. It started with Zoos picking up the ball full court, pushing the ball and taking advantage of their missed shots. We just wanted to come out of here with the win and we did that.”