Hapoel Jerusalem center Alen Omic (left) scored 14 points last night, but it wasn’t enough to beat Aleksa Ilic and Buducnost, which left the Jerusalem Arena with an 86-81 victory in Eurocup action..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem plays just its third game of the Eurocup regular season on Wednesday night, but the Israeli champion already finds itself under real pressure when it hosts Bayern Munich at the Jerusalem Arena.
Hapoel dropped to its second straight defeat to start the regular season last Tuesday, with the 86-81 home loss to Buducnost of Montenegro complicating the team’s situation in Group B.
After reaching the semifinals of the competition last season, Jerusalem set itself the target of going at least one step further in 2017/18 and reaching the final. A third straight loss would not only dent that dream, but put in danger Hapoel’s hopes of even qualifying for the Top 16.
The top four in the six team group will progress to the next round.
Complicating matters further for Jerusalem is the fact it is hosting what is considered to be the strongest team in the group on Wednesday.
Bayern crushed its rivals in its first two games, beating Galatasaray of Turkey by 17 points on the road before thrashing Lietkabelis Panevezys of Lithuania by 36 points.
Jerusalem lost to Panevezys by 14 points in its first game of the regular season.
“Bayern is one of the candidates to win the Eurocup and they don’t give up until the last second and we have to be ready for that,” said Jerusalem coach Fotis Katsikaris. “Our defense needs to take a step forward and we need to match their physical level.”
Jerusalem moved to 3-0 in the BSL with a 100-84 win at Hapoel Tel Aviv on Saturday in what was its first game since the release of star guard Curtis Jerrells.
“Hapoel Jerusalem is the reigning champion in Israel.
They have awesome fans who create a great atmosphere at every single home game. They are like the sixth man of the team,” said Bayern coach Sasa Djordjevic.
“They have experienced players like Halperin, great athletes like Howell and players like Omic, who is able to push his whole team forward while coming off the bench.
They might have lost their first two games in the competition, but this makes them even more dangerous. We have to be focused on our game.”
With Jerrells being cut, Hapoel will likely need one of its other guards to step up, possibly captain Yotam Halperin, who has yet to score a single point in the Eurocup this season.
“This is a very important game for us since we lost the first two,” he said. “We will come with our best effort to beat them. If we will come aggressive from the start, we can be in a position to win.”