|Aaron Mc Ghee was a menace under the boards for Ural Ekaterinburg, claiming 16 rebounds|
Ural Ekaterinburg held Tsmoki Minsk to just six points in the final period to take a 69-65 victory and book their place in the EuroChallenge quarter-finals.
The Russian team were looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Bakken Bears Aarhus in their last EuroChallenge outting, and got off to a hot start as Alexander Korchagin's lay-up capped a 12-1 run to start the game.
Tsmoki Minsk worked their way back into the game as their defence clamped down in the second quarter. The Belarusian team fed off Keith Benson Jr, who scored 12 points in the second period alone before Branko Mirkovic's lay-up reduced Ural Ekaterinburg's lead to three at half-time.
A strong third quarter for the visitors was capped by Aliaksei Lashkevich's three-point play with 70 seconds remaining, which put Minsk ahead by six.
The tense final period went scoreless for the first two minutes, but the home side regained the lead on another lay-up from Korchagin. The visitors battled furiously, and were only one point behind in the final minute, but Demonte Harper couldn't get his shot to fall despite three attempts, and Anton Glazunov finally cleaned up the defensive glass before outletting to Lance Harris for a dunk. Mirkovic's last attempt fell short as Ural Ekaterinburg held on.
Aaron McGhee's 16 rebounds were a huge factor as the competition's top two rebounding teams fought the battle of the boards to a draw. Glazunov ended with nine assists while Harris and Dmitry Flis led the Russian team with 12 points apiece. Benson ended with a double-double, recording a game-high 18 points plus 11 rebounds in a losing cause.
Tsmoki Minsk can still qualify for the quarter-finals today, if Team TEHO Sport Kotka defeat Bakken Bears Aarhus in their match-up later this evening.
Ekaterinburg Head Coach Oleg Okulov
"I'd like to thank everybody who came to support us and those who are doing their best to develop men's basketball in Ekaterinburg. Such games demonstrate that our spectators are interested in it even when minimal capital is invested. They ask if we can play in a higher league - for sure, we can. Not for the first places, but we can. I didn't want to estimate today's game - the price was too high. We understood that the winner qualifies to the play-off. This game couldn't be beautiful, as the teams have been playing too many games and the players' energy is not unlimited. We tried to follow our plan and prevented the opponents from scoring easy points. We have fulfilled what we wanted in the EuroChallenge. And we have minimum one more game to let all our players feel part of the European game."
Ekaterinburg Player Anton Glazunov
"Our fans and their emotions helped us a lot in this game. Minsk's players were tired after the previous matches, so were we. I understood that we were winning only during the last second. We were ready to contest them from the first minutes, and it worked."
Minsk Head Coach Donaldas Kairys
"The game was very tough, and the low shooting percentage proves it. But we didn't only miss, we were also losing on the board, and it was very painful. In the half-time we filled the gap, and the score was 43-43. Ural plays very good defence, very tough and close, and it brought them advantage. In the fourth quarter we had a chance to win - to score two points, but it happened vice versa. During many games Ural has been proving that they are a strong team and nobody in the EuroChallenge can beat them easily. It's complicated to play against them, because all the players can score three-pointers. It's hard to get used to the fact, that the big man scores distant shots, but Aaron McGhee does it, as well as other players."
Minsk Player Demonte Harper
"It was a tough game for both teams. Both teams played hard, and they won, so I congratulate them. I think there are a lot of things we could have done better. We should have executed a lot more things, and during the whole game we should have played faster. This game was tougher than the one in Minsk. We didn't come out aggressively; we started up really slow, so they came out with 10-1 in the first quarter."