|10 October 2013|
|Ivan Ivanovic had a 26-point, 13-rebound double-double for BC Mures against old club Gaz Metan Medias|
Two relatively young clubs that will participate in this year's EuroChallenge on the back of their best campaign in their respective domestic leagues, have started off the new season with tremendous ambition.
CSM Oradea and Okapi Aalstar reached the semi-finals of the Romanian LNB and Belgian Ethias League respectively last year.
On Wednesday, both sides emerged victorious from difficult assignments on the road and have jumped into the driver's seat of their national league standings with two wins in as many games.
Oradea out-rebounded CSU Atlassib Sibiu 34-17 and prevailed more comfortably than most would anticipate, 91-74, in the Transylvanian derby.
"[Rebounding] is important to all teams and I am pleased with how we performed in this aspect, but if you look at our shooting percentages it would be difficult for our opponents to get more rebounds in this game," Oradea head coach Christian Achim said.
Oradea shot an amazing 77% from two-point range and also sunk six of their 19 three-point attempts.
"The game was very important from our point of view, as I think that many teams will lose in this arena over the remainder of this championship," Achim said.
"I think that the players that came off the bench made the difference for us and were important in the win."
Australian guard Daniel Dillon went 8-for-8 from two-point range and finished with a team-high 21 points for Oradea, also adding five rebounds and five assists.
Sean Denison added 13 points, while four more Oradea players scored in double digits, to prove Achim's point that his team's strength is its pluralism and reliable options off the bench.
"It was an important win in the context of our participation in the EuroChallenge," Achim said.
"We need positive results especially in the beginning of the Championship, because we know that teams that participate in European Cups can feel fatigue later on."
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the LNB on Wednesday, BC Mures prevailed 89-80 over Gaz Metan Medias at home, in a clash between the two other Romanian clubs that will participate in the EuroChallenge this year.
Ivan Ivanovic paved the way for the winners with a double-double of 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Slavisa Bogavac had 21 points for Medias in a losing effort.
OKAPI SHOWING THEY CAN GRIND IT OUT
|Derek Raivio has picked up where he left of at the end of last season with some promising early displays for Okapi Aalstar|
A couple of hours later and several hundreds of kilometres to the west, Okapi were conceding just 62 points to their opponents for a second consectutive Ethias League game to clinch a 69-62 away win at VOO Wolves Verviers-Pepinster.
Okapi head coach Bradley Dean has said that his team's basketball so far has been "inconsistent" and, despite the win on Wednesday, they still appeared to be far from sharp, especially on the offensive end, where they only converted 21 of their 57 shots from the floor.
Dean had described Okapi's game against Oostende in the Belgian Supercup clash, which saw them lift the first trophy of the season as "very choppy", but added that "we fought through some poor periods to find a way to win."
What has become apparent following their third official game this year (between league and Supercup), is that Okapi will be able to rely on some hard-nosed defence, try to run and score in transition and, they can grind out victories even when their performance is not brilliant, a feature that is necessary for all championship contenders.
Guard Derek Raivio led Okapi to the win at Pepinster with a game-high 22 points and added five rebounds, Travis Releford had 13 points and seven boards while big man Christopher Young collected a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds.
29-year-old Raivio is averaging 22.3 points in Okapi's three competitive encounters so far this season and his team's campaign will largely depend on his form - and his fitness.
Last year, the guard missed two games in the EuroChallenge Last 16 due to injury and Okapi lost in both clashes, failing to qualify to the quarter-final play-offs of the competition.
Okapi were drawn in EuroChallenge Regular Season Group E, together with GasTerra Flames, Team TEHO Sport and Reggiana.
Oradea meanwhile will go up against defending champions Krasnye Krylia Samara as well as Royal Hali Gaziantep and Atomerömü SE in Group B.