J’lem brought to grinding halt in St. Petersburg

Hapoel suffers first defeat of the Top 16, losing to Zenit by 20 points in Russia to fall to 2-1.

January 19, 2017 00:31
2 minute read.
Despite Amar’e Stoudemire’s season-high 22 points, Hapoel Jerusalem was thrashed last night 101-81 a

Despite Amar’e Stoudemire’s season-high 22 points, Hapoel Jerusalem was thrashed last night 101-81 at Zenit St. Petersburg in Eurocup Top 16 action in Russia. (photo credit: DANNY MAARON)

Hapoel Jerusalem’s perfect start to the Eurocup Top 16 ended in humbling fashion on Wednesday night with a 101-81 defeat at Zenit St. Petersburg.

Jerusalem entered the game with a 2-0 record in Group G and on the back of a five-game winning streak over all competitions, its longest this season.

Hapoel could have already taken a massive step towards securing its progress to the quarterfinals at the midway point of the Top 16 on Wednesday, but was instead reminded of its weaknesses, losing by 20 points or more for the fifth time this season.

Jerusalem and Zenit are tied at 2-1 and the former doesn’t have to wait long to avenge the defeat, hosting the Russians at the Jerusalem Arena next Tuesday.

Also in Group G, Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius thrashed Nizhny Novgorod 97-63 on Wednesday, leaving both teams with 1-2 records.

The top two teams after six games will advance to the quarterfinals.

“In the first half we let Zenit score in very different ways as we were late on pick-and-roll situations,” said Jerusalem coach Simone Pianigiani. “We started the second half with less energy and if any team lets Zenit play in such a way, they can score a lot versus any opponent.”

Hapoel had held its opponents to 66.6 points per game over its recent winning streak, but Zenit crossed that mark midway through the third period. Jerusalem was nevertheless still in contention, trailing by just six points (67-61). However, it took the hosts just three minutes to effectively clinch the win, ending the third quarter with a 12-1 run to open a 17-point gap (79-62) Jerusalem never came close to erasing.

Amar’e Stoudemire scored a season-high 22 points for Jerusalem, with Tarence Kinsey adding 17 points. Curtis Jerrells, who averaged 23.5 points in the first two games of the Top 16, was held to seven points, hitting 2-of-11 shots.

Ryan Toolson led Zenit with 28 points, hitting six three-pointers for the hosts, who connected on 29-of-37 two-point shots (78.4 percent) and 11-of-22 attempts from beyond the arc (50%).

Zenit also outrebounded Hapoel 35-17 and had more than twice as many assists as its opponent (30-14).

“A very important victory with a comfortable scoring difference,” said Zenit coach Vasily Karasev. “We played a solid team with a star, Stoudemire.

We managed to win because of our team play. Hapoel has a lot of star players and plays more individually. And our players had 30 assists, which says a lot.”

Elsewhere Wednesday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion defeated group leader Le Mans 73-65 to improve to 6-7 in FIBA Champions League Group B and remain in contention for a place in the next round.

Rishon is in a four-way tie for fourth place in the group ahead of its final game of the regular season next week. The top four teams from each group and the four best ranked fifth-placed teams will progress to the playoffs. Rishon visits rock-bottom Khimik (3-10) next week and needs a win, as well as for other results to go its way, in order to advance.

Javon McCrea had 21 points for Rishon, with Charles Thomas adding 17.

On Tuesday, Ironi Nahariya moved to 5-8 in Group A, beating Bakken Bears (1-12) of Denmark 101-62.

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