The away match of the basketball club «Astana» against the Saratov «Avtodor» was held in the best traditions of the thriller genre, during which the initiative repeatedly passed from team to team in an uncompromising struggle. In a heart-breaking ending, luck was on the hosts' side and our guys were in a hair’s breadth of the victory. It is also worth noting that today Mark Tikhonenko was unable to help his team.
Skylar Spencer won the jump ball, but the first attack did not bring points to our team, and the hosts opened the score in this game. But this was followed by a lightning-fast response from Anthony Hickey, who opened a score for our team today. Then “Astana” played the role of catch-up, in which Hickey scored points again, Spencer joined him, and Antonio Campbell for the first time in the match brought the Kazakh team forward. The middle of the quarter the teams took turns in leading the game. During this time, all the same ones scored more points — Hickey, Campbell and Spencer, and Jalen Barford also opened his score in this game. Jaylen started an excellent spurt with two precise free throws, which he himself supported with a shot from the field. In addition to him, Marchuk and Hickey distinguished themselves by their effective actions — both were precise when hitting the Saratov basket from beyond the arc, and Skylar dunked spectacularly on top of that . “Astana” was in the lead by more than 10 points, and “Avtodor” did not score points in the last minutes of the quarter and only in the end the hosts were able to score two free throws — 20:31. Our team confidently started the second quarter and kept a double-digit lead, supported by Anthony and Jaylen, and Nikolay Bazhin increased our lead to 15 points. But after that, the game of our team began to decline. For four minutes, Darko Russo's players did not score a single point. «Avtodor» during this time has reduced the gap to 6 points. Jaylen interrupted the goalless pause of “Astana” with his three-pointer, but the hosts were on the roll and lost only 4 points two and a half minutes before the break. Dmitry Gavrilov, Rustam Murzagaliyev and Jaylen Barford made a good leap, and the difference became double-digit again, but immediately “Astana” missed the retaliatory attack of the rivals, who returned to the four-point gap — 47:57.
Great first quarter, but bad half of the second and in the end our advantage was only 4 points after twenty minutes of the game. And as it turned out, our team could not hold the leadership. Already at the beginning of the third period, the rivals began to seize the initiative, reducing the gap to one point. Anthony Hickey strengthen the fragile advantage in favor of «Astana» with his points, but after a minute «Avtodor» equalized the score and took the lead a little later. The yellow-turquoise ones took on the role of catch-up, but could not cope with it. In general, the third quarter became very ineffective in the performance of our players. Only in rare attacks did the ball reach the goal. Only Campbell and Barford scored points. Towards the end of the period, our gap came close to 9 points, but before the end of the quarter, Jaylen scored a three-pointer and “Astana” was losing 6 points before the final ten minutes — 67:61. It was clear that the game was moving into a very nervous ending. Skylar Spencer implemented two attacks in a row at the start of the fourth quarter and our gap was only 2 points, but the opponent was behind again a little. Bazhin, Barford and Marchuk brought our gap back to 2 points before middle of the quarter, and a little later Anthony Hickey equalized the score and brought the capital's team forward with an additional free throw. Until the last minute, thanks to playing on the edge Nikolai Bazhin and his accurate free throws, as well as points from Anthony Hickey, “Astana” kept a fragile lead, but only by one point. The last minute took place in a tough tactical struggle and after almost every attack, the coaching staffs exercised the right to a time-out. First, «Avtodor», thirty seconds before the end, made a three-pointer and went ahead by two points, but in the next attack Jaylen Barford responded with his three-pointer 12 seconds before the end. “Astana” was again ahead by one point. The hosts needed only five seconds in the next attack for the ball to be in our basket and now they are already one point ahead. Our team had seven seconds to attack, but the basketball heavenly powers were on the side of «Avtodor» today. Anthony Hickey made a very uncomfortable throw and the ball did not reach the basket — 83:82.
«Avtodor» head coach Emil Rajkovic:
- «Avtodor» — A lot of difficulties, especially in the second half of the match, were brought to our players by Zeljko Shakic — 22 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists. Kenny Chery has 13 points and 6 rebounds, while DJ Funderburk has 11 points, 7 rebounds and 1 block shot.
- «Astana» — Anthony Hickey became the most useful player in our team today — 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals. Jaylen Barford beat the historical record of the VTB United League, which became the only player who in his 4 starting matches was able to score one hundred or more points. After 26 points today, his overall score has reached 106 after 4 matches. In addition, Jaylen made 5 rebounds and 3 interceptions today. Skylar Spencer was close to a double-double, earning 9 points and 10 rebounds, as well as writing 3 block shots. Nikolay Bazhin looked good at the end of the match and scored 8 points and gained 5 rebounds. Antonio Campbell, unfortunately, did not finish the match, but earned 8 points and 3 rebounds. Maxim Marchuk has 5 points and 5 rebounds.
«It was a very interesting game for the fans. It is a pity that today they were not in the stands, that they could not support us and watch the match live. We knew that «Astana» is a top-notch team this season, and they proved it again today. They were leading in the first half of the match and scored too many points. But then in the second half of the game, we started to follow our game plan very closely, played better on defense and eventually found the opportunity to win. Of course, we enjoy that the team has been winning 7 matches so far, but it remains important to grow, to try to improve our game in each match. As a result of today's match, we have something to work on, I hope we will have time to make adjustments and show progress in the next games.»
«Astana» head coach, Darko Russo:
« An intense game, we were fighting for 40 minutes. Today we played against a team that averaged 92 points in the FIBA Europe Cup and 97 in the VTB League, which is a very attacking team. We were close to winning, but the last shots did not reach the goal. I am not satisfied with our defensive actions during the last two possessions of «Avtodor». One way or another, we had chances, we did everything that we discussed in the timeouts. I am happy with the way they fought. We need to be smarter and tougher in defense.»
“Astana” went down to the sixth line, but it may well lose two more places before the end of the game day, and “Avtodor”, thanks to the victory of UNICS over CSKA today, topped the standings.
Exactly one week later, on Sunday, November 14, the capital team will play another VTB United League away match against UNICS Kazan. The next National League series will be the first home games this season, and it will take place on December 8 and 9 in Nur-Sultan, with a return visit to us from Kostanay «Tobol».
Detailed information about the tournament, tournament tables, schedule and match results are published in the Tournaments