Hapoel Jerusalem forward Austin Daye (right) had every reason to look dejected last night after the team dropped to a 92-75 defeat at Buducnost in Eurocup action in Montenegro..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem will finally be able to put its disastrous Eurocup campaign behind it when it completes the regular season with a visit to Galatasaray in Istanbul on Wednesday.
Hapoel began its continental campaign with a clear goal of winning the Eurocup and qualifying for the Euroleague. In its worst nightmares, Jerusalem didn’t envision a scenario in which it wouldn’t qualify for the Top 16, not to mention lose any chance of progressing with one regular season game to play.
But last week’s embarrassing 79-66 home defeat to Reggio Emilia of Italy means the game with Galatasaray is of no significance for the reigning Israeli champion.
Galatasaray has already qualified, but needs to win in order to finish in second place.
Jerusalem enters the game with a 2-7 record, with four of its five defeats coming at home, including a 91-81 setback against Galatasaray at the start of November.
Hapoel’s main goal will be to try and continue to build some confidence after registering one of its best games of the season on Saturday night to defeat Ironi Nahariya 90-74 and advance to the quarterfinals of the State Cup.
Hapoel entered the contest under massive pressure, but everyone connected with the club was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief after it dominated Nahariya at Ein Sara Arena to pick up just its second win over all competitions in December after previously losing five of six games.
Jerusalem’s entire focus at the moment is on ensuring it avoids an upset when it visits Hapoel Beersheba of the National League for a place in the cup semifinals on Sunday.
“Consistency is the name of the game,” said Hapoel coach Mody Maor. “If we want to achieve our remaining goals we need to play well all the time. I told the guys in the dressing room after the game in Nahariya that this wasn’t a special performance. This is the way Hapoel Jerusalem needs to play all the time.”
Captain Yotam Halperin stepped up on Saturday with 20 points and admitted afterwards that the team would have struggled to bounce back from another loss.
“Had we lost we would have been in a difficult situation from a mental standpoint,” explained Halperin. “We have experienced many ups and downs as individuals and as a team this season. We can’t always all play well, but we need to always play with energy.”
With its Eurocup campaign coming to an end, Hapoel is looking to downsize its roster. It currently has seven foreign players, with local regulations only allowing teams to register five for any given game.
Ronald Roberts looks to have earned himself a place until the end of the season with three straight double-doubles, especially as fellow big man Richard Howell is out for two months after undergoing knee surgery.
The players likely to pay the price for the team’s Eurocup failure are Austin Daye and Alen Omic, who have seen their roles diminish over recent weeks.
In other basketball news, Hapoel Tel Aviv guard Jerel McNeal faces an Israel Basketball Association disciplinary court on Wednesday after almost assaulting referee Dan Yelon during Saturday’s cup victory over Bnei Herzliya.
McNeal is likely to be suspended for four games, meaning he will miss the cup quarterfinal against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
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