|21 March 2013|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Simas Jasaitis was named Eurocup Semi-Finals Game 1 MVP, after leading Lokomotiv Kuban to a first-leg victory at Valencia|
Uxue Bilbao Basket and Lokomotiv Kuban made giant strides towards the final of the Eurocup on Wednesday night, by clinching big wins on the road.
Both teams prevailed in the first leg of their respective semi-final ties thanks largely to big performances by European internationals that are expected to shine bright at the upcoming EuroBasket in September.
The Basque side defeated Budivelnik Kiev 93-83 in Ukraine while the Krasnodar outfit outgunned Valencia Basket 97-87 in Spain.
Lithuanian small forward Simas Jasaitis of Lokomotiv had the hot hand behind the three-point arc to finish with 23 points and register an efficiency index rating of 33, earning Semi-Finals Game 1 MVP honours.
Jasaitis hit 7 of his 10 shots from downtown, including two big threes in the final minute of the encounter, just when Valencia had gone on a 14-0 run and looked set to conclude an improbable comeback, to ensure the Russian team would clinch the valuable road victory.
He had plenty of help from fellow Lithuanian international Mantas Kalnietis, who had 17 points and four assists, while the other Lokomotiv guard, Greek international Nick Calathes, only scored eight points but dished out a game-high nine assists.
Derrick Brown contributed 19 points and six rebounds, Richard Hendrix had 14 points while Russian international Sergey Bykov chipped in with five points.
Justin Doellman of Valencia led all scorers with 28 points in defeat, while Spaniard Pau Ribas had 20 points and young Montenegrin international Bojan Dubljevic 17.
Ribas has not played for Spain since the U20 European Championship in 2007 but is considered one of the candidates to join the Spanish squad that will travel to Slovenia, under new head coach Juan Orenga.
Meanwhile in the Ukranian capital, Bilbao's duo of Greek guards, Kostas Vasileiadis and Nikos Zisis, went 6-for-10 between them from three-point range and combined for 34 points, with Vasileadis also adding five rebounds.
Lamont Hamilton led all Bilbao scorers with 26 points while former Spanish international Alex Mumbru contributed 14 points and a game-high seven assists to his team's win.
Bilbao's Belgian international Axel Hervelle chipped in with four points, three rebounds and three assists.
Budivelnik's Malcolm Delaney scored a game-high 38 points while Georgian international George Tsintsadze had eight points and seven assists in a losing effort.
The second leg of the Lokomotiv vs. Valencia tie is next Tuesday, with the other semi-final tie concluding a day later.
If Lokomotiv and Bilbao capitalise on their big away wins in the first leg and reach the title game, the final would see Fotis Katsikaris, the new head coach of Russia, pitting his wits against Krasnodar's coach Evgeny Pashutin, who was considered a frontrunner for the job.
The Eurocup final will take place on 13 April in Charleroi, Belgium.
The format of the Eurocup switched this year from a Final Four to home-and-away semi-finals, but the champions will still be rewarded with a place in next season's Turkish Airlines Euroleague.
Russian side Khimki, who lifted the Eurocup trophy last season after defeating Valencia in the final, has reached the Top 16 of the Euroleague and is competing for a spot in the competition's play-offs.