All square between Elan Chalon, Nanterre after first leg in Chalon-sur-Saone
CHALON-SUR-SAONE (FIBA Europe Cup) - Things couldn't be much closer in the FIBA Europe Cup Finals than they stand, with Elan Chalon and Nanterre 92 finishing the first leg of the title contest in Chalon-sur-Saone with their horns locked at 58-58 after a thrilling game at the Colisee on Tuesday evening.
A barrage of three-pointers by the visitors stunned the Elan Chalon faithful in the second quarter, but the home side battled back from a 15-point deficit and got back into the game with terrific defense, outscoring Nanterre 32-17 after intermission.
Turning Point: Things were seemingly getting out of hand for coach Jean-Denys Choulet in the second quarter, with Hugo Invernizzi and Spencer Butterfield torching the world on fire from downtown. To make matters worse, big man Moustapha Fall limped to the locker room after picking up a knock.
However, the 25-year-old center returned to the court in the third period and filled all of Elan Chalon's holes on defense. In the first 18 minutes of the second half, the home side allowed Nanterre to score just 12 points.
Game Hero: In a night where points were extremely tough to come by, Cameron Clark come up big for Elan Chalon with 16 points. In spite of a less-than-ideal 40% accuracy from the field, the American forward was still effective on the court, as indicated by his game-high plus-minus category of +13.
Stats Don't Lie: In what can only be described as a classic game of two halves, Nanterre had perhaps their best two quarters of the season and their worst two quarters of the season in the same game. After shooting 9-of-17 from downtown in the first half, Pascal Donnadieau's side were limited to just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc after the halftime break, with the lone make coming in the final 90 seconds of the game by Chris Warren.
Bottom Line: With the first leg of the Finals finishing all even, the FIBA Europe Cup trophy didn't move an inch either direction. Geographically-speaking, somewhere around Auxerre, roughly the mid-way point between Nanterre and Chalon-sur-Saone. Both teams will fancy their chances before the return leg at the Palais des Sports Maurice Thorez in the Parisian suburbs in a week's time.
They Said: "After this game, especially the first half, this is almost a win for us. We were so down and not playing well, compared to Nanterre. Then we came back from nowhere to 58-58. If you asked me to sign this result at half-time, I would have done it in a heartbeat. Now the pressure is on Nanterre; we just need to beat them by one. No need to calculate anything." - Jean-Denys Choulet, head coach of Elan Chalon.