Final Four hosts BC Kyiv had the wind taken out of their sails on Friday in the semi-final of the EuroCup, stumbling at the first hurdle of the tournament against DKV Joventut.
The FIBA Europe League finalists failed to take advantage of the home crowd and never really found their 'A' game in a contest which was dominated by their Spanish opponents.
Rudy Fernandez was the hero for Spanish as he scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in a fourth quarter in which DKV turned a 59-57 deficit into an eventual 10-point victory, 78-88.
|Rudy Fernandez was unstoppable for DKV in the 4th quarter|
"He's doing it in the ACB, which I think is the strongest league in Europe and he's doing it every week."
Fernandez's fourth quarter was all the more important as DKV threw away a significant lead built in a dominant opening period. They hit 10-of-14 shots from the field (six of those baskets coming on assists) in the first quarter as they jumped out to a 28-17 advantage.
Kyiv's woes were compounded early in the second quarter when center Ratko Varda picked up his third foul. He would go on to play no further part in the game, finishing with 0 points and three fouls in just three minutes of action.
Despite Varda's loss, Kyiv gradually chipped away at DKV's lead, getting help from some unusal sources.
Afik Nissim, who joined Kyiv in February, had seven points in the quarter and Kresimir Loncar, who had taken two three-pointers in 15 games up until today, was 2/2 from behind the arc as Kyiv closed to 39-46 at the half.
Nissim continued to impress in the third quarter. He had another five points, a three which brought Kyiv to within three points (50-53) and two free throws on the next play which cut the lead to just one, 52-53.
It was Nissim again who struck early in the fourth and his three-pointer right at the start of quarter gave Kyiv their first lead of the game, 59-57.
Unfortunately for the home side it would be their only lead as Fernandez inspired DKV down the stretch.
The 21 year old (his birthday was on Tuesday) hit a three-pointer which sparked a 19-6 DKV run to put his side up 76-63 with five minutes to play. Kyiv's defense was torn to shreds during the opening five minutes of the fourth as DKV's hit seven of their first eight shots, all of which came on lay-ups, dunks or three-pointers.
The onslaught proved too much for Kyiv to handle and head Coach Renato Pasquali called a timeout with 4:45 remaining, his side down 63-76, in an attempt to staunch the bleeding. However, the gap proved too much to overcome and Badalona held on for the win.
Pasquali was sanguine in the post game press conferences, putting the blame for the loss squarely at his own feet.
"Let's say today was my bad. When you win the coach is good. When you lose the coach is bad. I guess I was bad today," he said.
It's not easy to find a reason why we lost today. I can't say we were not ready and I can't say we didn't play well. The biggest difference in this game was the experience of Elmer Bennet."
Bennet was a key influence for DKV, finishing the game with 17 points and six assists in 29 minutes.
Fernandez added six rebounds and four assists to his 22 points, while Alex Mumbru (14), Andy Betts (12) and Lubos Barton (10) all scored in double figures.
Nissim finished with a game high 19 points for Kyiv.