Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Taylor Rochestie finished with 18 points in last night’s 95-89 win over Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the Winner Cup semifinals at the Drive-In Arena in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv aims to put last week’s humbling defeat to CSKA Moscow well and truly behind it when it hosts Unicaja Malaga at Yad Eliyahu Arena in its Euroleague home opener on Thursday night.
Maccabi was handed a harsh reminder of the massive gap it will have to bridge to compete with Europe’s best with last Thursday’s emphatic 100-69 defeat in Moscow.
Maccabi was embarrassed by the hosts, capitulating in the second period and failing to even put up a fight in the second half, dropping to its second- heaviest defeat in Europe since 1991 after losing to CSKA by 35 points in February 2014.
The yellow-and-blue bounced back to beat Bnei Herzliya to improve to 2-0 in the BSL on Sunday night, but needs a win over Malaga to settle its nerves which were shaken by the thrashing in Russia.
Maccabi may have to manage without Brian Randle once more who is still recovering from the infection which forced him to miss the game against CSKA.
Tel Aviv got virtually nothing on offense from its other big men in Moscow, with Vitor Faverani, Arinze Onuaku, Trevor Mbakwe and Dragan Bender combining for 14 points on 6-of-17 from the field.
That was surely one of the reasons that led Tel Aviv to bring in Ike Ofoegbu on a short-term contract on Wednesday, with the Nigerian-American forward being signed to a two-month deal which includes a team option until the end of the season.
The 30-year-old, who will join the team over the weekend, impressed with averages of 17.7 points and 6.7 rebounds at Maccabi Haifa last season.
Maccabi and Malaga have faced each other in three of the last four seasons, with Tel Aviv winning three of four meetings, but losing to the Spaniards at home three years ago.
Malaga beat Bamberg 76-71 last week behind 18 points from Lithuanian Mindaugas Kuzminskas, with former Maccabi forward Richard Hendrix finishing with 10 points and five rebounds.
“We didn’t sleep much after the defeat to Moscow,” said guard Yogev Ohayon. “We have had a lot of time to think about what happened. We have worked very hard since. We are a new team and are still getting to know each other. We will look better with time. We are a good enough team to believe in ourselves and we will be ready for Malaga.”
Captain Guy Pnini believes a defeat on Thursday could seriously complicate Maccabi’s position in the group. “It is important to beat Malaga after last week’s loss and also because this is our first home game,” said Pnini. “We can’t afford to lose at home.”