|Greg Brunner top-scored for Reggio Emilia with 22 points, adding nine rebounds|
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia returned to European competitions after a decade-long absence with a comfortable 80-63 win over Okapi Aalstar at home on Tuesday, in the opening encounter of EuroChallenge Group E.
Reggio Emilia were playing without their star Italian guard Andrea Cinciarini but still forced their Belgian guests to 15 turnovers and stole 11 balls on the night.
They led by a slim margin for most of the first half, until a Derek Raivio tip-in 1:03 from the end of the first half put Okapi in front for the last time in the game, 39-37.
Matteo Frassineti though hit a triple to send the hosts to the locker rooms with a 40-39 lead, and once the Italian side started pulling away decisively in the third quarter, Okapi had no answers.
Greg Brunner hit a triple on the fast break and then converted an and-one play on the next possession to cap off an 18-4 Reggio Emilia burst at the start of the third quarter, which enabled the hosts to jump to a 58-43 lead and take a firm grip in proceedings once and for all.
Troy Bell finished at the rim to give Reggio Emilia their biggest lead in the game, 69-51, with 7:38 remaining to the final buzzer and Okapi never really mounted a come-back attempt until the end.
Brunner paved the way for the winners with 22 points on 10-for-13 from the floor and nine rebounds, Bell finished with 13 points and James White chipped in with 10 points.
For Okapi, Ioana Tofi had 16 points and eight rebounds and Raivio added 14 points in losing efforts.
Okapi Aalstar Head Coach Bradley Dean:
"Congratulations to Reggio Emilia, they played better than us. In the second part of the game they showed a different determination. In particular I appreciated Greg Brunner, excellent player that has dominated the game. I let play the second lines because we have some players over 30 so it's difficult for some of them to play two games in the same week, that's why a turnover is necessary. We wait to play in Belgium, trying to do something better in our arena. Thanks to the fans that follow us here in Reggio, we have great supporters.
Okapi Aalster Player Thomas Dreesen:
"We knew that Reggio Emilia would be tough opponents. The team has great offensive talent and experience: Karl, James and Brunner are great players. We held the first part of the game, then we lowered the rhythm and they punished us. With the help of our fans in the home game in Aalst, we hope to play better next time.
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia Head Coach Massimiliano Menetti:
" We are very happy that we started the EuroChallenge with a victory and a good difference in the result. In the first part of the game I didn't like how we played, we played too softly. After the break we were a different team, with a different attitude. When we provide good defence, the attack also goes better. In the second part of the game all the team played very well. Cinciarini and White had physical problems but all their teammates gave the best in the emergency. We are improving our way to play together, sometimes there are bad quarters but the important thing is to react and to win the game.
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia Player Greg Brunner:
"I have experience of the Belgian championship, so I knew this was a strong team. Maybe I was a little more prepared to face this game because I have experience in playing two different competitions in the same season and I know that the key to win is to be focused. The important thing is that after the break we adapted ourselves to the game, we changed aggressiveness and we made Aalstar play our basketball.