It was another week where the results were mixed for the Aussies and their teams in Eurocup and Euroleague competition. There was a massive comeback win while one Aussie who has starred this season missed due to injury.
In an important contest at home, Besiktas Integral Forex Istanbul made it back-to-back wins over Neptunas Klaipeda and improve their record to 2-2 in Group M and maintain their hopes of progression. However the hosts would need to rally from 21 points behind in order to come away with a thrilling victory.
Neptunas opened the game strongly, scoring 6 straight points before Besiktas was able to respond. The visitors were able to maintain their pressure and had soon opened up a commanding 30-15 first quarter lead. That advantage soon ballooned to 21 points at one stage in the 2nd period. While they were able to close to within 13 at the main break, Besiktas were struggling to contain Neptunas' balance scoring attack.
Besiktas opened the 2nd half as a team playing with increased motivation, with Ryan Broekhoff making some big shots from downtown. Neptunas still managed to find ways to respond and repel each fight back. When Broekhoff connected on his 5th trey for the game in the last quarter, the hosts had closed to within just 4 points. Down the stretch Besiktas took the lead for the first time with just 35 second left. Neptunas regained the lead from the free throw line only to see Besiktas' leading scorer Chris Lofton (15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists) sink the game-winning triple with just seconds remaining, allowing Besiktas to escape with a thrilling 80-78 win.
Broekhoff was a key to the big win, connecting on 5/9 three-pointers on his way to 17 points with 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Besiktas star Chris Lofton provided 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, Jajuan Johnson led all scorers with 18 points and 3 assists. They next take on fellow Turkish side Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir (4-0) who are unbeaten in the Last 32 and a win would be a massive boost to their aspirations.
In their return encounter against Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd, CAI Zaragoza were desperately in need of a win to keep them in touch with the Group I leaders. Zaragoza started strongly, with good contributions from across the team including that from former Perth Wildcat Kevin Lisch (4 points and 3 assists). Teams continued to trade baskets and the lead in what proved to be a close fist half, with Chris Goulding providing 5 points in the second period.
Late in the 3rd quarter is where the visitors made their move, with star player Randy Culpepper beginning to light it up. Culpepper was arguably the difference between the two teams, nailing 6/10 from distance on his way to a game-high 31 point performance as Oktyabr managed to hold off the home team 82-71. Goulding would finish with just 7 points with 3 rebounds in 15 minutes and exhibiting little influence on the game apart from his cameo scoring in the 2nd quarter.
For Zaragoza, their Eurocup campaign is now looking grim, with just a 1-3 record and sitting in last place in their group. They will need a lot to go right for them if they are to have any chance to progress, and certainly need more output from their star Australian shooting guard who has cooled of late. Their next game against Cedevita Zagreb (3-1) who leads Group I could well seal their fate.
After experiencing their first loss in this Eurocup campaign against Banvit Bandirma last week on the road, Herbalife Gran Canaria returned home and the chance to gain their revenge. Playing without Australian Boomer Brad Newley who missed the game with a sprained ankle, the Spaniards were able to atone with a 91-80 victory. Newley, arguably Gran Canaria's most consistent player this season, is expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks.
In Newley's absence, Albert Oliver stepped up to pour in a game-high 21 points that included 5/8 from beyond the arc in coming off the bench. Team-mates Kyle Kuric and Eulis Baez added 18 points each as Gran Canaria ran over Banvit 32-16 in the final quarter and connecting on 13 three-pointers for the game.
Importantly for Gran Canaria, with the win they improved to 3-1 and gained the head-to-head advantage over Banvit who currently sit in 2nd position in Group H. Gran Canaria now requires just one more victory to guarantee a place in the eighth finals and it may come at the expense of their next opponent Dinamo Sissari (2-2).
Watch Eurocup action live on Eurosport Australia via Foxtel. Next week’s games being broadcast are as follows (all times AEDST):
Wednesday, 4th February
6:45am LIVE: JDA Dijon (FRA) vs FC Bayern Munich (DEU)
Thursday, 5th February
3:00am LIVE: Unics Kazan (RUS) vs Strasbourg (FRA)
Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul make the daunting trek to Greece to take on European powerhouse Panathinaikos Athens. Playing in front of a raucous crowd of more than 9,000 fans, the home side got off to a great start thanks to Greek star Dimitris Diamantidis (14 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists) who scored the first points of the game. From there on Panathinaikos were never seriously threatened, piling on a 11-0 run in the second quarter to open up a 17 point lead.
Things never improved for the visitors who would find themselves trailing by as many as 25 points in the 3rd quarter. A final quarter surge allowed Galatasaray to close the margin before falling 77-86. The final score flattered the visitors as they were totally outclassed by a clinical Panathinaikos outfit who boasted an incredible 6 players reach double figures in scoring.
For the visitors, Vladimir Micov led the scoring with 16 points with good support provided by Karem Gonlum with 16 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. Star guard Carlos Arroyo was well held, providing just 4 points with 6 assists while Australian back up center Aleks Maric only played 7 minutes for 1 rebound.
Maric saw little opportunity in this game to have any influence, and he will be hoping for more time next week against reigning champions Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv. Galatasaray (2-3) need a win if they are to remain in touch with the top teams of Group E, and the game against the 4-1 Maccabi could well determine their chances moving forward.
Watch Euroleague action live on Eurosport Australia via Foxtel. Next week’s games being broadcast are as follows (all times AEDST):
Friday, 6th February
9:00am DELAYED: Real Madrid (ESP) vs FC Barcelona (ESPN)
Saturday, 7th February
5:00am LIVE: Fenerbahce Istanbul (TUR) vs Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (ESP)
7:00am LIVE: Emporio Armani Milan (ITA) vs Anadolu Efes Istanbul (TUR)