The Great Eight: 18-year-old Salaun puts Cholet on his back
MIES (Switzerland) - Three games were played on Tuesday and saw the first ticket to the Round of 16 being handed out in Greece, along with a stunner in Latvia and a coming-of-age performance in France.
First things first, here are all the results on another exciting Basketball Champions League night:
- AEK BETSSON BC (5-0) v Banco di Sardegna Sassari (1-4): 110-79
- VEF Riga (2-3) v Lenovo Tenerife (3-2): 77-72
- Cholet Basket (3-2) v Darussafaka Lassa (2-3): 97-86
And now, in line with this being Season 8 of the BCL, we went through all the numbers and selected the eight most impressive on the day.
Cholet came into this week in a good position to obtain home court advantage for the Play-Ins. However, after Tuesday's results, they are in a great position to challenge for the top of the group and a direct passage to the Round of 16.
That's because they defeated Darussafaka Lassa at home, completing the sweep over the Turkish side to climb to 3-2 in the group. Lenovo Tenerife dropped are also at 3-2 and Cholet will host the Spaniards in France in two weeks' time in a direct battle for first place and a spot in the Round of 16.
Darussafaka put up a fight even after a lot of roster changes during the past days. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had a day-high 25 points, but he was outmatched by Cholet's two bigs who combined for 48 points.
Neal Sako had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and his younger partner in crime was even more impressive. At 18 years of age, Tidjane Salaun put the entire team on his back, scoring 24 points while nearly outscoring the entire Dacka team in the first quarter, when he had 11 points.
Salaun had a 15-point game to start the BCL season, and registered 9 points and 6 rebounds in the first matchup with Darussafaka, but this was easily the game of the season for the teenage prodige.
Another one from a storied academy.
Lenovo Tenerife had won all five of their previous encounters against VEF Riga and probably expected another easy day at the office in Riga. However, with a loud crowd behind them, the Latvian champions pulled off an upset, handing Tenerife their first defeat to VEF in BCL history.
VEF Riga controlled the painted area perfectly, and against Giorgi Shermadini and all the other inside options for Tenerife, it helps to have the best rebounder in the BCL.
Arnaldo Toro Barea set an all-BCL season-high with 14 points, six of them being offensive, a gigantic number compared to Tenerife's total of seven offensive rebounds.
VEF Riga travel to Istanbul to face Darussafaka on the last gameday. The winner remains in the competition, the loser drops out after the Regular Season.
For the first time in his BCL career, Cholet Basket point guard TJ Campbell collected a double-double. He had 11 points and a day-high 10 assists.
AEK BETSSON BC resolved the game against Banco di Sardegna Sassari early on, making sure they keep the points at home and cruise towards the Round of 16.
With the win secured, coach Joan Plaza could afford to spread his rotation out a bit, giving all 12 players time on the floor, and finding a surprising candidate in the... theft department. Zois Karampelas picked up 5 steals on the day, done in just 15 minutes, taking full advantage of Sassari's lackluster performance in Greece.
The usual suspect. Sassari's Stephane Gombauld had 3 blocks in the first six minutes of the game. However, that was about it when it comes to the Italians' defense on the day, and he stayed on 3 blocks in 25 minutes of work.
The fact that Cholet's big guy Neal Sako was a +37 is already insane. The fact that he did it in an 11-point game, and in 26 minutes of action is indescribable.
Sako again, 24 points, 9-of-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, 1 block, efficiency rating of 29.
Honorable mention: Mindaugas Kuzminskas. The AEK forward is enjoying his time in Athens, setting his new BCL career-high with 21 points, while also getting 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists and 25 in efficiency.
Most three-pointers made
It was a shootout in France, with Salaun hitting five threes in six tries, and Abdur-Rahkman edging him out with 6-of-9 shooting for Darussafaka.
There was another close call for a record, as Alessandro Cappelletti went 5-of-5 from deep for Sassari, nearly getting Sek Henry's mark for most threes without a miss in a BCL game (7).