The week's big numbers: Chikoko can't miss, Gagic in record-state-of-mind
MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) - The first week of action in the FIBA Europe Cup Second Round picked up with even more force from where it had left off at the end of the Regular Season, with personal feats by Pau-Lacq-Orthez center Vitalis Chikoko and Tsmoki Minsk big man Djordje Gagic grabbing the brightest spotlight.
Big wins for home teams was the common thread among most games, but Group L underdogs Prievidza did manage to come away with an improbable upset against BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque in France, while Enisey emerged victorious in Groningen even without Frank Elegar, taking an 84-76 victory against Donar.
Tsmoki center Djordje Gagic organised a block party for the visiting Bnei Herzliya side to start the Second Round with a bang, swatting away a FIBA Europe Cup season-high five shots. The Serbian big man also finished the game with 8 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists, as the Belorussian side triumphed 89-76 at the Falcon Club.
At the same time, the 9 blocked shots by Tsmoki as a team marked the new season-best, surpassing the previous high of 8 set by Bnei Herzliya in the Regular Season.
The individual FIBA Europe Cup all-time record is co-owned by SPM Shoeters center Dejan Kravic and Tartu veteran Janar Talts, both of whom had 6-block games in the inaugural edition of the competition last season.
Vitalis Chikoko turned in his fourth consecutive perfect game for Pau-Lacq-Orthez after going 11-of-11 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw stripe in a 101-66 victory against BK Pardubice.
The Zimbabwean big man last missed a field goal in the FIBA Europe Cup almost two months ago in the very first game of the Regular Season. Since going 5-of-7 against Tartu on 25 October, Chikoko has converted all 25 of his field goal attempts for an overall field goal percentage of 94%.
Having collected 28 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals for a total efficiency index of 40, the player not only claimed the Top Performer honours for the week, but also set a new FIBA Europe Cup record for most field goals made without a miss.
Ozhan Civgin’s side blew away the Belgian side with a 26-7 first quarter after beginning the game on a remarkable 17-0 run that kept the Giants scoreless for nearly the first seven minutes of the game.
Buyukcekmece ended up claiming an 81-67 victory, with the Antwerp club eventually balancing out the play in the second half and outscoring the hosts in the third and fourth quarters.
Eric Bartecheky gave his young playmaker Elie Okobo a chance to shine in Pau-Lacq-Orthez’s first game in the Second Round and the 19-year-old French prospect delivered in a big way, finishing the game with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists and only a single turnover in 36 minutes of action.
The team’s starting point guard D.J. Cooper got some well-deserved rest and played only 9 minutes, as Elan Bearnais ran away to a double-digit lead very early in the game and cruised the rest of the way, claiming a 35-point victory in the end.
Comeback specialists Sodertalje Kings came close to erasing a 20-point fourth quarter deficit against Gaziantep, but Vedran Bosnic's team eventually ran out of steam after getting within three points.
After being slowed down by the Turkish side in the first three periods, FIBA Europe Cup leading scorer Toni Bizaca finally got going in the final frame, nailing three three-pointers en route to 10 fourth-quarter points. The sharpshooting big man from Croatia finished the game with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists for Sodertalje.
After the last triple by Bizaca, the Kings had trimmed the gap to 69-66 with 47 seconds left on the clock, but Marcus Denmon answered with a long-range shot on the other end and put the game out of reach, with Gaziantep going on to claim a 72-66 win.
BCM Gravelines dominated the offensive glass like no other team this season in the FIBA Europe Cup, amassing a competition season-high 23 offensive rebounds against Prievidza, but that did not help the French side to secure a win.
The Slovakian side managed to offset their disadvantage on the boards with excellent shooting, making 59.7% of their field goal attempts, including a stellar 14-of-30 from three-point range.
Andre Jones was the main culprit with 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, but it was Igor Maric’s long-range bombs at the end of the fourth quarter that sunk the Dunkerque ship in the end.
It seemed that Vytautas were well on their way to another crushing victory in the FIBA Europe Cup, leading Redwell-Gunners Oberwart by 30 points at the halftime break, but the young Austrian team showed character and battled back to make it interesting in the fourth quarter.
After outscoring the hosts 27-16 in the third period, the Cedric Kuakumensah-led Gunners continued to push forward and got within single digits with plenty of time on the clock after three made three-pointers by Christopher McNealy at 79-70.
However, the Austrian fightback hopes were put to rest by Tomas Delininkaitis who drained a couple of baskets in a row, as Vytautas finished the game on a 12-2 run.