Eurocup Qualifying Round
|Head Coach Drazen Anzulovic was not happy with his team's performance before the comeback rally|
One of the most interesting games in this week's Eurocup Qualifying Round was played between Elan Chalon and Cedevita Zagreb.
Just last season, Cedevita played in the Eurocup and reached the Semi-Finals but they looked to be in danger of suffering a first-leg knockout in France.
With just under eight minutes remaining, Cedevita, coached by Drazen Anzulovic, faced a 70-48 deficit.
Incredibly, they rallied and ended up losing, 78-73.
"Having gone from 22 points behind to minus five, we must be satisfied," Anzulovic said.
"However, our decline after 15 minutes of play was inexplicable, considering what we'd shown in training and in cup games in the (KC) Drazen Petrovic (arena).
"We lost all of our confidence on both ends of the court.
"We lost control of the defense, and aggressive determination and speed."
Still, Cedevita had enough grit left to battle back.
One of their heroes was Haywood Owens, who had 17 points and finished two rebounds shy of a double-double.
"I am glad that we still showed character as a team.
"We did not surrender and we tried to come back, and it finally paid off."
Young Makes Big Splash
Jahmar Young introduced himself to professional basketball on Tuesday night with a game-winning performance for BK Ventspils against Azovmash in the Eurocup Qualifying Round.
|Not afraid to take a game winner: Jahmar Young (BK Ventspils)|
A former standout in American college basketball at New Mexico State, Young had 28 points for Ventspils, including a shot from behind the arc on the left wing at the buzzer to give the Latvian side a 75-74 win.
Young was the obvious candidate to take the shot.
He had to pause and allow an Azovmash defender to fly by with outstretched hands before launching, and making his three-pointer.
The 24-year-old was so happy that he ran to the other end of the Olympic Center Ventspils court to celebrate and was joined by his teammates in jubilant scenes.
What Young will have to get used to, though, is that unlike the American game, the only result that truly matters in a Eurocup Qualifying Round tie is the aggregate.
Ventspils are, effectively, at half-time and Azovmash will probably start as favorites to win the second leg by enough points to progress since they will be at home.
What should concern the Baltic side are the turnovers, especially the game-high six by their point guard Janis Strelnieks.
The Latvia national team playmaker had 12 points but just four assists, and two of his turnovers led to fast-break lay-ups for Azovmash in the closing stages of the game that allowed the visitors to build a four-point advantage.
Tuesday, meanwhile, was the start of a new chapter in coach Gundars Vetra's life.
The Ventspils-born Vetra was a terrific player in his day, competing in the Soviet Union side that won a silver medal at the 1990 World Championship in Argentina.
He was also in the Commonwealth of Independent States team that finished fourth at the 1992 Olympics, a team that suffered a heart-breaking 75-74 defeat to Croatia in the Semi-Finals and then lost to Lithuania in the battle for bronze.
Vetra was also the first Latvian to play in the NBA after a 13-game stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1992-93 campaign.
He spent the previous four seasons coaching Russian women's basketball, leaving CSKA Moscow first and then UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Now he is at the helm of Ventspils.
National Team Players
A sign of the quality on show during this week's Qualifying Round games is that many a national team player was in action.
Yotam Halperin, who played at the EuroBasket for Israel, had 16 points to lead his new club Spartak St Petersburg in a 60-59 victory at ETHA ENGOMI.
Two Slovenia big men that were missing in action this summer and would have been a big help to their country, Miha Zupan and Hasan Rizvic, were in action for Spartak and Azovmash.
Oleksandr Kolchenko, who averaged more than nine points per game for Ukraine at the EuroBasket in Lithuania, was in the Azovmash line-up.
FYR of Macedonia's Damjan Stojanovski, who had a chance to send his national team's bronze-medal game against Russia to overtime in Lithuania but lost control of the ball as he attempted an easy lay-up, had three points for Lukoil Academic in their 70-65 home triumph over BK Prostejov.
France forward Charles Kahudi played for Le Mans and had 10 points, six rebounds and two assists in their impressive 80-73 victory at Pinar Karsiyaka and Steed Tchicamboud, the reserve playmaker in the French EuroBasket side, had 10 points and five assists in Chalon's 78-73 victory over Cedevita.
Matjaz Smodis of Slovenia began life after CSKA Moscow by logging 16 minutes for Cedevita and scoring six points.
Georgia international point guard Marquez Haynes shone for Gran Canaria with 14 points in their 61-56 triumph at Artland Dragons.
Williams And Besiktas
|Deron Williams gives Besiktas true star power and contributed right away with 9 assists|
For the second season in a row, Besiktas have a huge name in their squad.
Last year, it was ex-NBA MVP Allen Iverson but he was past his prime and missed a lot of games because of injuries.
The NBA superstar in this team this year is Team USA's Beijing Olympics gold-medal winner, Deron Williams.
On Tuesday, Williams struggled shooting, hitting just three of his 15 shots from the floor, but he still scored 15 points and handed out nine assists as Besiktas beat Dexia Mons Hainaut, 78-70.
The 27-year-old had mixed emotions after the contest.
"We turned the ball over too many times in the last quarter," Williams said.
Besiktas had eight of their 12 turnovers in the last frame.
"Our field goal percentage (45.2%, 28 of 62) was low," he said.
"Still, we got an eight-point difference."
Sakota's New Home
One of the feel-good stories of this opening week of first-leg ties in the Eurocup Qualifying Round was the appearance of Dusan Sakota in the BC Telenet Oostende jersey.
Two years ago, Sakota was playing in Italy for Scavolini Pesaro when he suffered a blow to the stomach that left him with a lacerated duodenum.
After a couple of operations and also falling into a coma, Sakota finally began to get better but he didn't play at all last season as he returned to good health.
He was back on the court on Tuesday and more than held his own as Oostende claimed an 88-62 first-leg triumph at Norrköping Dolphins.
In 16 minutes at Norrköping, Sakota hit three of six shots from long range before finishing with 10 points.
Chris Booker and Dusan Djordjevic, meanwhile, looked as if they are going to be very good signings.
Oostende were so impressed by the two players that were vital in Krka Novo Mesto's EuroChallenge-title winning 2010-11 season that they signed both.
Big man Booker had 12 points, four rebounds, three assists a block and a steal in Sweden while point guard Djordjevic corralled eight rebounds - at least twice as many as any of his teammates.