By Jeff Taylor
|Despite the best - and some of them quite spectacular - efforts of Pau Orthez, the French side fell to Szolnoki Olaj, resulting in two very happy Hungarian teams in the first week of the season|
BC MINSK-2006 STOP THE ROT
The EuroChallenge tipped off this week and already there are surprises.
Consider Belarus, where BC Minsk-2006 have been in a horrid stretch in the VTB United League, losing all five of their games.
They trailed Telekom Baskets Bonn in the EuroChallenge by seven points early in the fourth quarter on Tuesday but rallied to win, 79-71.
Aliaksandr Kudrautsau was the MVP of this game for the hosts after scoring eight of his game-high 24 points in the last period.
Minsk were eight of 15 from behind the arc and four of those came in the fourth quarter.
Kudrautsau, a 31-year-old shooting guard and leading player in the Belarus national team, said the responsibility was on his shoulders.
"Coach (Andrei Krivonos) told me, when you get the ball, do with it what you want, but your every action must end with a basket, a foul from an opponent or an assist," Kudrautsau said.
Minsk, remember, had to play in the EuroChallenge Qualifying Round and lost the first leg in Georgia to Sokhumi, 94-78, yet came back in the second leg and won, 97-63.
Kudrautsau made all three of his shots from long range in that win and had 18 points and six assists.
When it comes to basketball, no game is over until the final buzzer.
BK Prostejov are proof of that because they clinched a dramatic, 77-75, Group C win at BC Goverla in Ukraine on Tuesday when Jamar Smith launched a game-winning shot just before the death and made it.
Goverla's fans were already celebrating the fact that captain Dante Swanson had knifed his way into the lane, drawn a foul and put the team on top, 75-74, with two free-throws.
But Prostejov inbounded the ball to Smith and as he crossed midcourt near the scorer's table, he dribbled behind his back and drifted to the edge of the three-point line before leaning in and releasing the game-winning shot.
To his credit, Swanson was guarding Smith as close as possible without fouling him.
It was a remarkable finish that saw Smith turn around, run towards his team's bench and chest-bump teammates.
"It is very difficult to lose like this, in the last seconds," Goverla's Alexander Shostuha said.
"A crazy shot of Smith decided an interesting game."
Crazy or not, Smith showed he's lethal from long range because he buried four of his seven three-ball attempts.
The Czech Republic's other team in the EuroChallenge, BK Pardubice, are in Group C and they also got off to a winning start with an 82-77 home triumph over Roanne.
Pardubice also won a thriller thanks to Maurice Hampton, who had 25 points.
His biggest shot was a go-ahead three-pointer with 47 seconds to play.
Hampton drilled five of seven shots from long range.
Both of Hungary's teams won their opening games, including Atomerömü SE.
Both Atomerömü and Szolnoki had to go through the Qualifying Round.
PINAR KARSIYAKA PREVAIL
A much-anticipated rematch took place in Ankara between Turk Telekom and Pinar Karsiyaka.
The latter had lost at home to Turk Telekom over the weekend but travelled to the capital city and this time won, 82-74.
Pinar Karsiyaka's Mire Chatman had scored 37 points in the weekend meeting while this time, Week 1 MVP Jovo Stanojevic did a lot of the damage with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
Pinar Karsiyaka fans, meanwhile, will be monitoring the progress of one of their young stars that was in last year's team that reached the Quarter-Finals.
Furkan Aldemir was a 19-year-old rebounding machine for Karsiyaka in 2010-11.
Now with Galatasaray, he had game highs in points (18) and rebounds (11) to fire his team to a 79-70 win in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague at Union Olimpija on Wednesday night.
KULAGIN ROCKS OKAPI
Dmitry Kulagin of Russia was an all-tournament team selection at the U19 World Championship in Latvia this summer after leading his team to a bronze medal.
His last three games at the event were memorable.
In a 79-74 upset of the United States in the Quarter-Finals, he made five of six shots from the arc en route to 21 points and also pulled down 12 rebounds.
Against Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania in the U19 Semi-Final, he poured in 27 points, but Russia lost 85-68.
Kulagin also had 24 points in a bronze-medal winning, 77-72 triumph over Argentina.
On Tuesday, Kulagin was spectacular for Triumph Lyubertsy.
He poured in 20 points and hit one three-ball that sucked the life out of Aalstar.
The Belgian team tried to claw their way back from a 19-point deficit and closed the gap to 69-68 when Nate Fox connected from behind the arc in the fourth quarter.
Kulagin coolly went to the other end and nailed a three-ball of his own to calm his team's nerves.
He made a real impression on Brad Dean, the Okapi coach.
"He made his shots in the key moments, when his team needed to make the run," Dean said.
Triumph had to go through the Qualifying Round.
SENE BACK ON THE BOARDS
Mouhamed Sene of Senegal was a very useful player for Gravelines Dunkerque last season in the EuroChallenge when he averaged 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds.
A 2.11m center, Sene was so good that he had three straight double-doubles in one stretch against Lisboa e Benfica (15pts, 13rbs), BK Ventspils (15pts, 10rbs) and again against the Portuguese, Benfica (16pts, 12rbs).
Now on the books of Fuenlabrada, who already have the physical frontline presence of Mexican center Gustavo Ayon, Sene began the 2011-12 EuroChallenge with, you guessed it, a double-double.
Sene had 13 points and 12 boards as Fuenlabrada won 89-75 at home against Norrköping Dolphins.