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EuroView: Xavier Cooks and the Aussie big men dominate
It was a terrific week for the Aussie big men across Europe, with the experience of Brock Motum leading the next generation of stars, including Jock Landale, Xavier Cooks and Mangok Mathiang with big performances.
Xavier Cooks has been impressive across the FIBA Europe Cup and German Bundesliga in his rookie season. The 6'8 forward from Wollongong has been one of the most important players for s.Oliver Würzburg, and was integral in guiding his team to three straight wins across the week.
In the FIBA Europe Cup, Würzburg enjoyed a 95-77 win against Prishtina last week. Cooks was all class, adding 10 points (5-7 FG), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 24 minutes as a starter. Importantly, his side consolidated that win by taking down Pinar Karsiyaka in a thrilling 96-87 overtime victory on the road to make it 5 wins across their past 6 games. Cameron Wells scored the lay-up to force overtime in regulation, before the visitors took over in the extra period behind a dominant performance from Cooks. The former Winthrop star was a beast on the boards, delivering a monster double-double consisting of 18 points (8-12 FG), 16 rebounds, and an important blocked shot in extra time to help his side earn victory.
In returning to the Bundesliga, Cooks continued to be the barometer for his team, guiding Würzburg to a convincing 80-65 victory against Science City Jena. While little separated either side in the first half, it was all Würzburg in the second half as they closed out strongly. Cooks was at the forefront, compiling a team-high 17 points on 7-12 shooting with 5 rebounds and 4 assists as he continued his brilliant rookie season. The victory now has Würzburg on a two-game winning streak and with Cooks averaging an impressive 9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
In an Adriatic league game featuring Australian's on either side, it was Partizan Belgrade and Jock Landale who prevailed 83-77 over Duop Reath and FMP Belgrade. It was not an easy result though, with Partizan forced to overcome a 5 point deficit at the end of the first quarter to grind out an important 6 point win. Landale was once again the standout, with the 6'11 big man dominating the paint at both ends. He would compile a 16-point and 10-rebound double-double, his second of the season, while also shooting an efficient 4-7 from the field and an impressive 8-11 at the charity stripe and duly named game MVP.
For fellow first year pro Reath, he played 16 minutes off the bench for 2 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. However nobody was able to slow down Landale and Partizan, who lifted into 5th place in the standings.
Partizan would back up to collect a must-win EuroCup victory against Turk Telekom Ankara 87-72 to make it two wins in a row to close out the group stage and scrape into the Top 16. With other results falling their way, it became a do-or-die contest for the Serbian outfit in order to qualify for the next stage. They gained the early ascendancy and slowly pulled away to gain revenge for an earlier road loss to Ankara. Landale was solid performer yet again, compiling 6 points (3-4 FG) with 3 rebounds and 2 blocks despite being restricted by foul trouble.
Newly promoted side Crailsheim Merlins continued to find the going tough in Germany's top league, falling short to Ludwigsburg 70-82. The Merlins struggled to put points on the board in the first half, crawling their way to 24 points at the main break. However they would explode for 26 in the third period to make things interesting before the home side closed it out to win by 12. Veteran wing Ben Madgen started and had a tough game, going 1-9 from the field in finishing with 4 points and 8 rebounds. It was an uncharacteristic output from the former Sydney King who is averaging a team-best 14.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game this season, and his otherwise been a shining light in a season in which his side has only won two games to date.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul registered a blowout 106-68 win against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica in the EuroLeague to get back to their winning ways. A 22-0 run to end the third term put the hosts up by 28, and from there they cruised to a record-breaking win. They connected on 13-23 from beyond the three-point arc, with Rio Olympian Brock Motum helping create havoc. The Aussie forward exploded for a season-high 17 points in 16 minutes, shooting 7-12 from the field including 2-4 from three-point territory. He also collected 7 rebounds, as he helped his side to a 38-point win - the largest for Efes on its home floor in the competition, and its second-best result of any kind dating back to 2004. With 106 points, Efes also set a new club mark for points scored at home as they improved their record to 9-4 and maintain outright fourth place in the standings.
In the Italian Serie A, Mangok Mathiang continues to make a living by dominating the paint for Vanoli Cremona who are sitting pretty in the top 4 in the standings. In their most recent outing, a 122-106 shootout victory against Pesaro, the 6'10 big man gathered 10 points and 8 rebounds in just 15 minutes. Cremona were in control from the outset, allowing head coach Sacchetti Romeo to spread the minutes across the roster. The former Charlotte Hornet has been good for 10 points and 8 rebounds per game, and has been a key reason his side is shaping as a serious championship contender this season.
Dan Dillon continued to play well in the French Pro B with Paris, however his side fell to Lille 74-82 in their most recent contest. The journeyman clocked up 13 points (5-7 FG) with 6 rebounds and 2 assists, however allowed Lille to shoot 57% from the field compared to their own 42%, and were never seriously in the hunt. With the loss, Paris sits at the bottom of the table with a paltry 1-9 record despite Dillon averaging 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
Força Lleida collected an 89-73 win against Araberri in the Spanish second division. Obi Kyei came off the bench to contribute 9 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes in the big win. His steam holds down third place on the table with a 9-4 record, with Kyei adding 8.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.