Hapoel Jerusalem forward Amar’e Stoudemire (left) and guard Jerome Dyson (right) fight for the ball.
(photo credit: ULM OFFICIAL WEBSITE)
Hapoel Jerusalem dropped to its second humbling defeat in four days on Wednesday, losing its perfect Eurocup record with a 103-77 thrashing at Ulm in Germany.
Hapoel won its first three games in the competition and was confident of moving to 4-0 despite falling to Hapoel Holon by 23 points in BSL action on Sunday.
However, it found itself in a double-digit deficit already in the first quarter and never came close to mounting a comeback after entering the break down by 16 points (53-37).
Jerusalem coach Simone Pianigiani’s main concern will be his team’s defensive play, with Hapoel allowing an average 101 points in its past two defeats.
Despite the defeat, Hapoel has no real reason to be concerned about missing out on a spot in the Top 16, with only the team in last place in the group to fail to qualify.
The battle for final positions got a whole lot tighter though, with Jerusalem, Valencia and Ulm all owning a 3-1 record at the midway point of the regular season.
Finishing first could be significant as it will likely result in a more comfortable draw and an easier route to the latter stages of the competition.
The Top 16 will consist of four groups of four teams, which will play six round-robin games beginning in early January 2017.
The top two in each group will advance to the quarterfinals, which like the semifinals and finals will be played in a best-ofthree playoff format.
Jerusalem has big aspirations in Europe this season after reaching the Eurocup quarterfinals only once in the past six seasons.
It failed to make it past the regular season in 2014/15 before barely progressing to the Last 32 last season when the competition had a different format.
The battle for the fourth and final ticket to the next round looks set to be fought out between Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (1-3) and Olimpija Ljubljana (0-4).
Jerusalem does still hold the advantage of hosting three of its remaining four games. Valencia comes to Israel’s capital in two weeks, with Ljubljana to visit the Jerusalem Arena a week later.
Hapoel then goes to Krasnodar before wrapping up its regular season at home against Ulm.
It will surely have revenge on its mind when that game comes around after being humiliated in Germany on Wednesday.
Hapoel managed to enter the second period down by only six points (25-19), but soon found itself in a double-digit hole and never recovered. Jerusalem shot just 14-of-34 (41.2%) from twopoint range, while allowing Ulm to hit 75 percent (24-of-32) of its shots from inside the arc.
Curtis Jerrells was Jerusalem’s top scorer once more, finishing with 23 points.
Per Guenther led six Ulm players in double figures with 19 points.
Also Wednesday, Bnei Herzliya improved to 3-1 in FIBA’s Europe Cup.
Herzliya defeated Academic Sofia 84-79 at home behind 18 points from Stephen Dennis.
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