The Great Eight: Unicaja first to 3-0; Falco hero hits buzzer-beater from his own half
MIES (Switzerland) - Four games were played on Tuesday, with Unicaja emerging as the biggest winner of the day. They are not only the first team to reach a 3-0 record this season, but also got some help from Falco Vulcano Szombathely in France.
In line with this being the eighth season of the Basketball Champions League, we have selected the eight most impressive numbers of the night. First things first, here are the results of the day:
- Darussafaka Lassa v Cholet Basket 80-91
- MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg v Banco di Sardegna Sassari 79-89
- Unicaja v Peristeri bwin 81-64
- Le Mans Sarthe Basket v Falco Vulcano Szombathely 63-81
Now, the best numbers of the day:
Jayvon Graves was the only player on the day to break the 20-point mark. The MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg guard is already above his stats last season, as this tonight was his second 20-point game in Ludwigsburg's jersey, compared to just one 20-point performance in 15 games for Limoges CSP last season.
Graves scored 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting, but could not prevent the defeat.
That's because Banco di Sardegna Sassari dominated the game inside the arc. The Italians won the rebounding battle 43-29, had a 36-24 edge in points from the paint, and did not panic even for a second when Ludwigsburg started the game with an 8-point lead.
Instead, coach Piero Bucchi kept feeding his big guys, led by the man with more than 200 NBA games to his name. Alfonzo McKinnie, a former Raptor, Warrior, Cavalier, Laker and Bull took care of business by collecting a day-high 12 rebounds, five of them being offensive.
He also went 5-of-5 from the field for 13 points, as one of five men in double digits for Sassari en route to their first BCL win of the season. They needed it, they lost five straight in all competitions before tip-off in Germany.
DeVante' Jones dished out 8 assists for Le Mans Sarthe Basket, the most on the day across all four games. And yet, that was not enough to prevent an 18-point defeat at home, playing against Falco Vulcano Szombathely.
Darussafaka Lassa were flying high through the first month of the season, climbing to 2-0 while having a legit MVP candidate in David McCormack. When they saw the schedule bringing Cholet Basket to Istanbul, they must have thought they were going to have an easy day at the office and rise to 3-0, because the French side had lost to Lenovo Tenerife easily and defeated VEF Riga by a single point.
However, this matchup suited Cholet Basket much more than Dacka. Cholet's pace was just on another level, 21-8 in fast break points, 22-15 in points from turnovers, 10-8 in steals, thanks to the man who made a career as a scorer.
Vojtech Hruban is still the only man with 1,000 points or more in BCL history, but he made the difference defensively with 4 steals in Istanbul. He also scored 16 points, one of five men in double digits for coach Laurent Vila, and just like that, Cholet are up to 2-1 and they have their sights fixed at the prize called a Round of 16 ticket.
Darussafaka are also at 2-1, Tenerife could join them in a three-way tie with a win over VEF Riga.
Back to Ludwigsburg for this one: Stephane Gombauld decided he was not interested in MHP RIESEN being called the Giants. Sassari's big guy deleted five shots, tying the BCL season-high.
Honorable mention: Darussafaka's Muhsin Yasar, who had 4 blocks in less than 15 minutes on the floor.
Hruban again. Cholet were +23 with him playing.
Honorable mention: Unicaja's David Kravish at +21. A team-high in a 17-point win for the Malaga club, and arriving in such different fashion compared to what he usually does on the floor. Kravish made just three of his 10 shots from the field, most of them being his usually reliable midrange jumpers.
However, even with missing shots, he did his part for the team with 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 1 steal and the aforementioned +21. Some would name Nihad Dedovic (11pts) or Yankuba Sima (11pts) or Melvin Ejim (10pts) as the toughest player, but with this team being so well coached by Ibon Navarro, you can get destroyed by Kravish even on his off night, scoring-wise.
"Unicaja are for sure one of the favorites to win the trophy," Peristeri head coach Vassilis Spanoulis explained it perfectly after witnessing their power first hand.
First team at 3-0 this season. With a bonus, since Szombathely shocked Le Mans on the road, meaning Unicaja are two wins clear of everybody else in that group.
With 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks and a steal, Banco di Sardegna Sassari's Stephane Gombauld went for an efficiency rating of 30. He became the fourth man with 30+ in that statistical category so far this season, joining Harald Frey, Ivan Almeida and Caleb Homesley.
Most three-pointers made
Falco Vulcano Szombathely lost seven consecutive road games in the Basketball Champions League, and down at 0-2 heading to Le Mans, not a lot of people were giving them a fighting chance.
But Marcell Pongo did not care about that. He also did not care about scoring just three points in his first two BCL games, exploding for 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against Le Mans Sarthe Basket, while hitting five threes, including one which will be remembered for a long time.
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Pongo knocked it down at the buzzer, from Falco's own three-point line, for his team to end the third quarter holding a 10-point lead, taking the air completely out of the building and powering the Hungarian champs to their first win of the new campaign.
With Unicaja running away at 3-0, the final points' difference could come into play, too. Because Falco are now looking alive again in the three-way tie with Le Mans and Peristeri at 1-2 in Group A.