Eurocup Hoops: J’lem aims for another Euro triumph

Sasson: “We have to be at our best to beat Galatasaray.”

February 2, 2010 06:16
2 minute read.
Hapoel Jerusalem's Brandon Hunter.

hapoel hunter 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Hapoel Jerusalem will look to build on its stunning victory in Valencia when it hosts Galatasaray of Turkey in its second Eurocup Last 16 game at Malha Arena on Tuesday night.

The triumph in Spain last week means Hapoel will progress to the quarterfinals as long as it wins its three Group J home encounters, starting on Tuesday against Galatasaray.

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Jerusalem played its best game of the season by far in Valencia, but has not had it all its own way at Malha this season, losing to Aris Thessaloniki in its last continental home game and needing overtime to get the better of Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the BSL over the weekend.

“We had a great win in Valencia but every game from now on is a cup final,” Hapoel coach Guy Goodes said. “Our group shows that home advantage is almost meaningless as all four teams are deadly on offense. Especially Galatasaray, they are the best offensive team in the Eurocup with great attacking players.”

Galatasaray is the top-scorer in the Eurocup, averaging 86.3 points per game, and depends almost entirely on four players. Rado Rancik (19.9 ppg), Darius Washington (18.4 ppg), Simas Jasaitis (17.4 ppg) and Mike Wilkinson (17.4 ppg) carry the Galatasaray offense and combined to score 73 of the team’s 79 points in the 85-79 home loss to Unics Kazan last week.

“Galatasaray is entering the game after a home loss and needs to take an away game,” Goodes said. “We have to win at home but we learned lately that our home advantage is fragile after the loss to Aris. It will be an open group until the very end and every game will be difficult.”

Superb showings by Tre Simmons, Pooh Jeter and Sharon Sasson were the key to Hapoel’s victory in Valencia, with Sasson’s 13-point display especially impressive after he only managed 14 total points in Jerusalem’s six regular season games.

“Our first home game adds to the pressure, as we’ve seen that Valencia and Galatasaray found it hard in a tight game at home,” Sasson said. “Galatasaray is a strong team, with great players, and is unstoppable if it has a good shooting night. We have to be at our best to beat them. The win against Valencia is important but it does not rule Valencia out. I think that beating Barcelona on the previous Saturday was to our advantage. I hope that our win in Spain will not play into Galatasaray’s hands.”

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