The top two teams in the early part of the season in Lithuania each boast an Australia, with Cameron Bairstow’s Rytas Vilnius sitting one game behind Jock Landale’s unbeaten Žalgiris Kaunas.
It was Žalgiris that enjoyed the biggest week, earning two commanding victories across the EuroLeague and back home in the Lithuanian national league.
While Jock Landale only saw 14 minutes for 6 points and 1 rebounds in Žalgiris’ big 70-56 win against ASVEL Villeurbanne in the EuroLeague, the 6’11 big man came up big back in Lithuania in the LKL. Behind a 34-16 second quarter explosion, Žalgiris pulled away from Vytautas Prienai – Birštonas to record a big 87-55 win.
Landale was at his efficient best, converting 6 of 11 shots from the field including 2 of 4 from downtown to finish with a game-high 16 points with 6 rebounds in only 17 minutes on court as a starter. With Žalgiris blowing out their opponents, everyone on the roster saw at least 13 minutes of playing time as they improved their unbeaten record to 7-0.
Hot on Žalgiris’ heels is Rytas Vilnius and Cameron Bairstow, whose only loss of the season came at the hands of their traditional rivals Žalgiris. Gaining an early advantage against Šiauliai, they went for the jugular in the final term to run out convincing winners 93-70. Bairstow, who has cemented a starting role, played 19 minutes for 12 points (4-9 FG) with 5 rebounds in another strong outing.
Rytas’ win came on the back of their tough 81-91 road loss to Tofas in the EuroCup mid-week. In that game, Bairstow provided 11 points and 4 rebounds in just over 16 minutes.
In the Spanish ACB, Brock Motum’s Valencia destroyed San Pablo Burgos 93-62 after a close opening term. Motum was one of four Valencia players who feasted on their opposition, piling on 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting with 5 rebounds in 20 minutes. It was a morale boosting win for Valencia who remained without a win following Round 4 of the EuroLeague.
Valencia traveled to Maccabi Tel Aviv, and immediately found themselves on the back foot in the opening term. From there, they trailed all game and could never find enough momentum, falling short 63-76. Motum was only able to add 2 points in 11 minutes, with his side shooting a paltry 33% from the field.
Duop Reath and FMP Belgrade maintained their unbeaten start to the Adriatic League season with their fourth straight win, this time a 78-73 victory against Igokea. Reath started and played 22 minutes, adding 9 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, with FMP hanging on for the win down the stretch.
Angus Brandt could not help prevent a 71-82 loss to Bologna in the Italian Serie A. The big man logged 29 minutes for Pistoia, compiling 13 points and 7 rebounds in the loss. It was Pistoia’s sixth straight loss to open the season, and has them sitting in last place.
With Xavier Cooks still sidelined by injury in France, Mangok Mathiang (Turkey) and Keanu Pinder (Poland) have also been forced from the court across the past week, interrupting strong starts to their 2019/20 campaigns.
On the coaching front, Liam Flynn’s Hapoel Jerusalem remained unbeaten in the Basketball Champions League. They clocked up an 85-78 win over AEK Athens i a close contest, managed to pull away down the stretch for a 7 point win. They could not maintain the momentum against EuroLeague side Maccabi Tel Aviv, falling short 73-89. An 18-32 third term caused the damage, a position from which they could not recover as they lost their first game of the season.