The Israel national basketball team defeated Romania 87-63 on Monday night at the Drive-In Arena in Tel Aviv to move its EuroBasket 2021 qualifying record to a perfect 2-0.The blue-and-white contended with a pesky Romanian squad, forcing the game to played at a slow pace throughout the 40 minutes, but that didn’t stop the Maccabi Tel Aviv duo of Jake Cohen and Deni Avdija from starring in the victory.Captain Gal Mekel was able to break down the visiting side’s defense while Holon’s TJ Cline scored key baskets to help lead Oded Katash’s squad to the hard-earned conquest.Avdija made the most of what will probably be his only qualifying game with an MVP performance of 21 points and eight rebounds along with a team-high 25 efficiency rating. Cohen added 17 points while Mekel chipped in with 11 points and four assists in the win.Mirel Dragoste led Romania with 11 points and Emanuel Cate scored 10 points for Romania in a losing effort.“This was a sweet win and I have to give credit to my teammates and staff that prepared us properly for this game,” said Avdija. “This was an important win for us and it’s always great to represent the Israel national team. It’s the biggest honor for any player to do so for their country.”Katash spoke about the key to the victory.“Our defense made the difference and we adapted it during halftime,” the coach told reporters. “I’m happy we executed better in the second half. It’s always a pleasure to be a part of the Israel national team and we had a great home atmosphere.”Also in attendance was the president of FIBA, Hamane Niang, who spoke about his plans after being elected to the post this past September at the FIBA Congress in Beijing.“I’m happy to be here in Israel and visit the Israel Basketball Association, which is one of our strongest, as well as to see the EuroBasket qualification game between Israel and Romania. Israel has successfully hosted competitions in the past and have brought various tournaments to the country. We hope that will continue as there is a very special relationship between Israel and FIBA.”The blue-and-white came into the home tilt against Romania after defeating Poland 75-71 in its first qualifier last Thursday, with Mekel playing brilliantly in recording a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists to go along with three steals.Veteran forward Guy Pnini was also instrumental the opening victory over Poland with nine points, while big man Idan Zalmanson added 12 points and Rafi Menco chipped in with 10 points in the win.On Monday, Mekel thread the needle to Itay Segev to get Israel off and running early in the first quarter, while Menco hit from deep, as did Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Cohen giving Israel a 9-2 lead midway through the frame.Avidja came on for Mekel after the Romanian timeout and nailed a triple on his first chance of the game. Former Real Madrid player Emanuel Cate got on the board as did Mihai Maciuca and Mirel Dragoste for Romania, but Katash’s blue-and-white held a 16-12 advantage after 10 minutes.Pnini hit a three-pointer and Cline scored inside, but Lucas Tohatan and Tudor Gheorghe each hit triples for Romania and Cate found points as well to pull to within two points (24-22) with six minutes remaining in the second quarter. Cline scored a pair of baskets and Avdija found the bottom of the bucket in the paint to quickly give Israel some breathing room and a 32-25 advantage with 4:22 left in the first half.Cohen dropped in a layup off an Avdija assist and Cohen did the same thanks to a Pnini helper, but Julian Orbeanu hit from long distance while Radu Varna also scored from beyond the arc as the visitors kept the game close. However, a triple from Avdija and a Segev dunk gave Israel a 43-38 lead at halftime.Mekel opened the third quarter with a pair of free throws while Cohen scored another uncontested layup but once again Romania came back as Dragoste scored six points to cut the Israel lead to 47-44 midway through the period. Avdija put back an offensive rebound and added a pair of free throws while Giordan Watson drove to hoop and scored a reverse layup to keep the blue-and-white honest.But an Avdija jumper in the lane and a triple by Menco gave Israel a 10-point lead (56-46) with 4:25 left in the frame. Points by Maciuca and Cate gave Romania hope, but points by Cline, Mekel and Cohen made sure to send Katash’s crew into the fourth quarter up 65-56.Cohen sliced up the Romanian defense to begin the final frame as layups by Avdija and Mekel, plus a Menco triple, gave Israel a 75-60 advantage with 6:18 left in regulation.Pnini did what he does best and scored from beyond the arc while Nimrod Levi added his first points of the game as Zalmanson and Avdija also found the bottom of the net to help Israel to the 24-point triumph.