04 October, 2022
14 May, 2023
12 Vrenz Bleijenbergh (OOST)
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Seven takeaways from Wednesday: Superhero Bleijenbergh leads Oostende to a break

MIES (Switzerland) - Wednesday night brought four new Play-In games, and the first two breaks. Filou Oostende and Darussafaka stole homecourt advantage, with the Belgian champs erasing a 19-point deficit in Istanbul to go 1-0 up on Bahcesehir College.

To go through all of the biggest stories of the day, we selected our Seven Takeaways, in line with the number seven and the entire theme of this season - season seven of the Basketball Champions League.

#1 Wunderkind acting grown up

It seems like a long time ago that Vrenz Bleijenbergh caught everybody's eyes as a teenager point forward in Telenet Antwerp Giants' academy. He took it one step at a time, turned down NCAA offers to go pro in Belgium and slowly but surely grew into a grown man on the court.

He's been around playing serious men's basketball for the past five years, and he's still only 22! The move to Filou Oostende unlocked new levels to his game, and after some solid performances early in the season, the last two games really saw the guy with the seven-foot wingspan dominate on the floor.

Bleijenbergh had 10 points and 15 rebounds against Hapoel Atsmon Holon to finish the Regular Season with a win. He backed it up with 14 points and 17 rebounds to start the Play-In series, powering Filou Oostende to a 76-72 win over Bahcesehir College on the road.

That's 24 points and 32 rebounds in his last two games. Still just 22.

Speaks volumes about Dario Gjergja's coaching and the confidence people find when they are playing for his teams over there in Oostende and Belgium.

Gjergja's coaching led Oostende from -19 to a win, the biggest road team comeback in the BCL since January 2022.

#2 Jamar is always clutch

He missed some games through injury, searched for his way to dominate the game, and of course he found it, even at 35. Jamar Smith is just that kind of a player, no matter what happens, you want to see him with the ball in his hands late in the game.

That's why, when Oostende's lead was cut to three points, everybody knew that once Bahcesehir College got the ball, it would find its way to Smith. The Belgian champs opted not to foul, Smith said, "okay, thanks" and knocked down a three-pointer to tie it.

For most players all over the world, that would've been a tough shot. For Smith, it's just a regular Wednesday.

His heroics were erased by Breein Tyree's free throw and Bleijenbergh's rebound for the win, but Game 2 is just around the corner. Smith had just 6 points in this one, but with 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists.

If Oostende think for one second that Smith and Bahcesehir are down and out, he will make them pay. We saw it, some ten thousand times throughout his career...

#3 AEK finds a hero at home

The Queen played its 100th BCL game, becoming just the second team to reach triple figures here, after Lenovo Tenerife. They will soon be joined by SIG Strasbourg, who are waiting at 99 games played, already in the Round of 16.

AEK made sure that their fans celebrate a win, even behind the closed doors. It finished 73-70, with Suleiman Braimoh and Rob Gray missing potential game-tying three-pointers in the closing seconds, putting AEK just a win away from the Round of 16.

Sure, Janis Strelnieks and Akil Mitchell had 16 points each, sure, Isaiah Miles counted to 12, but perhaps the most influential player of the day for AEK was Dimitris Flionis. That's because he stepped up when others couldn't find the rim, let alone the net.

AEK were in control early in the fourth quarter, but Tofas took a brief lead at 55-54 with eight minutes to play. Flionis responded with a pullup three, followed it up with an assist for a Tim Frazier layup, then had a layup of his own, and another assist for a Strelnieks three.

He capped everything off with a block on Tyler Ennis' layup attempt, completely switching the momentum of the game to AEK's favor. From the time he hit a three to the block, the 25-year-old lefty was the reason why AEK opened up a nine-point lead with 90 seconds left in the game.

Another exhibit that stats don't paint the real picture because you can be a hero with 9 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds, too.

#4 Holon's offensive clinic

Let's get the facts in: Hapoel Atsmon Holon defeated Igokea m:tel 103-79. They tied their biggest win in BCL history with that +24 margin, which happened back in October 2018, when they played Fribourg Olympic.

More? More. They have two 100+ point games this season. The rest of the BCL, combined? Also two.

More!? More! They scored 100+ points in seven BCL games, taking sole possession of number one in that race. Holon were previously tied with Umana Reyer Venezia, who got to 100+ points six times during their BCL years.

More!?!? More!!! Holon's 33 assists on the night are not only a season-high, but are also the highest mark for any team in the BCL since BAXI Manresa had 41 assists against Polski Cukier Torun back in December 2019.

Enough? Enough.

Holon are fun. Joe Ragland is fun, he had 12 points and 14 assists, taking the lead in points-assists double-doubles from Marcelinho Huertas. Ragland now has eight such games, Marcelinho is waiting patiently at seven. Ragland is also up to 304 assists in BCL history, fifth player to reach the 300-mark.

And don't forget about Marvin Jones - the big guy had 19 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, showing the depth of Guy Goodes' squad. Still, only 1-0 up on Igokea, so they need to forget this offensive clinic and focus on the next one in BIH.

#5 Dogus does it all

Dogus Ozdemiroglu is a legend over there at Darussafaka. Even in BCL terms, he already made a name for himself by taking down the defending champions Hereda San Pablo Burgos in the Play-In Series last season. Now, he's even more impressive.

Ozdemiroglu led Dacka to an 89-76 win on the road in Portugal, stealing SL Benfica's home court advantage in the Play-In Series. He had 18 points, 14 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals, Darussafaka were a +19 team with him on the floor, and he was just all over the place.

That describes him perfectly. With this points-assists double-double, he became the first player to get double-doubles both in points-rebounds and points-assists this season. 

You know what that means? We're putting him on the triple-double watch - only two triple-doubles happened over the seven seasons of BCL games.

#6 Wake up calls for Benfica and Igokea

They were the sweethearts of the Regular Season. Igokea m:tel upset even the likes of Surne Bilbao on the road, and SL Benfica were just one VEF Riga triple away from finishing first in their group, but this is how quickly everything changes in this format.

Instead of enjoying their rock solid Regular Season runs, they are now facing elimination. Igokea would need a miracle to level the score against Hapoel Atsmon Holon, if the Israeli champs repeat anything similar to Wednesday's performance. Benfica would need a miracle on the road, in Istanbul, but that's the point of these wake up calls.

Miracles happen all the time. Igokea know how to win, and how to win when nobody expects them to do so. Benfica are still perfect, 3-0 on the road in the BCL, so why not connect four? It could happen. These two are stubborn and won't go away that easily.

#7 Round of 16 early picture

Okay, now that Game 1s are out of the way in the Play-In Series, it's time to give the Round of 16 groups an early look. If the Round of 16 started today, Group I would comprise of SIG Strasbourg, Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, Hapoel Atsmon Holon and JDA Bourgogne Dijon.

Group J would have Telekom Baskets Bonn, BAXI Manresa, Filou Oostende and Rytas Vilnius.

Group K looks so close with Unicaja, Galatasaray Nef, AEK and MHP RIESEN.

Group L could have three Spanish teams together, with Lenovo Tenerife, Surne Bilbao, UCAM Murcia and Darussafaka in there.

Still a long 20 days before the R16 group stage starts. But stay up to date, keep checking the Groups tab on our website for updates.