Ludwigsburg spoil the party for 10 thousand fans, book a trip to Bilbao
CLUJ NAPOCA (Romania) - MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg made it back to their second Final Four. After finishing fourth in 2018, John Patrick's squad will have another go at the top spot in Bilbao, earned with a dramatic win over U-BT Cluj Napoca in Game 3 of the Quarter-Finals.
It finished 79-73, as the game went on for two hours and 15 minutes, delayed by a white-out before the tip-off, showing the rest of Europe how crazy it can get in Romania when the home team needs support from the stands.
Turning point: MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg had a 19-point lead, but U-BT Cluj Napoca were not going away that easily. They were en route for a crazy comeback having cut the gap to six points with four minutes left to play.
But, it was Ludwigsburg's go-to moves that sealed the deal. First, stellar defense forced three quick turnovers by Cluj, and then it was up to Jordan Hulls, Jonah Radebaugh and Justin Simon to push the gap back to double digits.
Cluj tried playing with more risk and fouling, but could not get close enough to do more damage. Perhaps, the dagger play came when 1.80m/5'11'' guard Hulls grabbed the offensive rebounds, and finished with a layup, a complete momentum killer for the hosts.
Game hero: Coach John Patrick mentioned numerous times during the season that Jordan Hulls is the key for Ludwigsburg's Final Four wishes. After struggling with an injury and trying to find his rhythm, Hulls delivered in the most important game of the season.
The guard never scored more than 15 points in a BCL game before this one. He had 13 by the half, and finished with 21 on the day, while dishing 3 assists with 3 rebounds and 2 steals, made even more impressive by 0 turnovers in 31 minutes on the floor.
Stats don't lie: U-BT Cluj Napoca never had more than 20 turnovers in their first 12 BCL games, but went over that number in their last two games. They had 13 of their 25 turnovers in the first half, opening up an 11-0 Ludwigsburg edge in points from turnovers, which turned into 25-4 by the end of the game.
Bottom line: The Romanian champions made a name for themselves in an impressive maiden season in the Basketball Champions League. In a campaign that saw them defeat teams like Darussafaka, Hapoel U-NET Holon, Unicaja and Filou Oostende, they must be proud of their efforts, even though they were a couple of possessions away from the Final Four.
Ludwigsburg, meanwhile, are back to the final tournament. They will face BAXI Manresa in the Semi-Finals in Bilbao, and when they play defense like this, nobody should be considered a favorite against them.
"It was an awesome atmosphere here, the fans were great. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought battle, we knew they were a good team, and when the crowd gets behind them, they are really good. We wanted to come in here and play as hard as we could, get the win, and I'm glad we were able to do that. They were going to make a run, they made a lot of threes. They have a lot of good sets, and when we relax, they get comfortable and they make big plays. A lot of credit to our guys too, we hung in there, took care of the ball, knocked down big free throws at the end." - Jordan Hulls, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg
"When they started the game throwing all the white things on the floor, these are the games you live for. It doesn't get any better than this. Playing in front of a crowd like this, it's really what you play for. We just had to step up to the moment, credit to our guys, everybody who stepped in brought something, we got it done. They are a team that's not gonna go away, you have to go get it, and we had to take it." - Jonah Radebaugh, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg
"They came out to an aggressive start. They were able to limit us, force turnovers, and were able to get offensive rebounds too. They came out stronger and we had to crawl back. It's always hard being down by so many points early on. We did a good job fighting in the second half, it's a bitter sweet feeling because we were able to battle back, but not to close it in. Against that type of a team you need to take the fight to them first. When they come out and punch you in the mouth first, you give them all the momentum. In the second half our fans gave us energy to come back, but we can't be down by that much in the first half and expect a full comeback." - Dustin Hogue, U-BT Cluj Napoca