Cypriot powers Proteas EKA AEL took a big step towards reaching the EuroCup Qualifying Round with a 64-55 victory at BC Dnipro in the first leg of their Elimination Round 2 tie.
The Limassol outfit, who reached the EuroCup quarter-finals last season, played a solid game on the road just over a week after Charles Barton took over as head coach for Igors Miglinieks. Karim Souchu scored 16 points and Milutin Aleksic added 15 points and 15 rebounds for AEL.
The defensive battle saw Dnipro shoot just 25% while the winners were only slightly better at 37%. Barton's team took advantage of 18 turnovers by the Ukrainians while only committing 13 themselves.
Maxym Korniyenko led Dnipro with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Viktor Kobzystyy collected 14 points and eight rebounds but committed eight turnovers.
Aleksandar Ciuc and Ryan Randle combined for 14 points in a 16-8 lead for guests. Korniyenko scored his ninth point of the first period and Dmytro Shevchenko's three-pointer cut the margin to 18-15 after one quarter.
Souchu's three-pointer pushed the cushion back to 23-16 but Shevchenko and Volodymyr Kozlov hit from long range and Korniyenko's jumper completed an 8-0 run. Aleksic answered with a three-pointer of his own, but Maxym Vil'khovets'kyy's trey gave Dnipro the lead 27-26 at the break.
After the Cypriots had gained the lead 28-27, another Vil'khovets'kyy three-pointer pushed the Ukrainians back ahead. The game was even at 39-39 when Soucho again knocked down a long range shot and Aleksic's basket gave Barton's team a 44-39 advantage, which was 45-42 going into the fourth quarter.
Vasily Zavoruev's three-pointer - his only basket of the game - and foul shot opened a 49-42 cushion. But Dnipro fought back and Vil'khovets'kyy hit another from downtown in helping the team pull to within 51-49 halfway through the fourth.
Back-to-back baskets by Aleksic made it 55-46 with three minute remaining. Oleksandr Panchenko's two foul shots cut the deficit to 59-54, but Souchu again knocked down a three-pointer and Aleksic's jumper made it a 10-point gap again - 64-54 with just over two minutes left.