maccabi tel aviv 298.88.
(photo credit: EPA)
Jamie Arnold of Maccabi Tel Aviv comes down with a rebound in front ofLottomatica Roma's Alessandro Tonolli during Maccabi's 71-69 victory in their Euroleague Top 16 Group D game in Rome on Thursday. (CASTORIA/EPA)
For the first time in more than two months, Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to Israel on Friday afternoon victorious from a Euroleague road game.
Maccabi defeated Lottomatica Roma 71-69 in a hard fought game on Thursday night that was more about spirit than skill. Tel Aviv's previous one and only away victory of the season came against Unicaja Malaga on December 14 in Game 8 of the regular season.
Jamie Arnold led Maccabi with 17 points and 12 rebounds in Italy and was named for the first time in his career as the Euroleague's MVP of the Week. The American big man was 5-for-7 from two-point range and hit seven of his eight free throws. He also added an assist and drew seven fouls for a total index rating of 29.
Tel Aviv recorded its second EL away victory despite scoring its second-lowest point total of the season, but coach Neven Spahija was, above all, pleased with the fact that his team had finally won a close game.
"We've lost many, many games by two points this year and we finally found a way to win one," he said after his team's first Top 16 win. "This win means a lot; it will give us a great morale boost for the competition.
"It was very tough. They played excellent defense and in the end, when we were down six points, we didn't give up, we believed we could win this game. The most important thing was the character of my players."
After a tight first quarter in which each side scored 16 points, Maccabi opened a lead midway through the second period and led by as many as nine points (34-25) with two minutes remaining in the half.
Roma cut the margin to seven points (35-28) at the break and tied the game at 45-45 after three periods. After the Italian squad took a 58-52 lead, Jacopo Giachetti failed to hit a three-pointer that would have given the hosts a double-digit lead.
Nikola Vujcic's five straight points brought the visitors back into contention. Clutch shooting by Derrick Sharp, who scored eight points in the last 54 seconds of the game, kept Maccabi just ahead of the hosts and secured the victory that renews Tel Aviv's hopes of European glory.
"Roma played well defensively and it was a difficult game for us," said Vujcic, who ended up with 14 points in the game and grabbed four rebounds.
"We did well to get back into the game early in the fourth quarter, I simply knew that I had to make the shots when left open and I did.
"It was a big team effort. In the crucial minutes, we made sure we kept our cool and didn't let Roma play their game. I'm just happy because we have shown a fighting spirit and a determination to go home with a victory.
"It wasn't easy and this win will give us a lot of confidence for the future."
A week after being held scoreless for the first time all season long, Will Bynum added 17 points and five assists for the visitors.
Roma's American backcourt contributed more than half of the team's total points, with Mire Chatman scoring 19 points and taking six rebounds and David Hawkins accumulating 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
"We didn't play well in the first half, but my team played at its maximum in the second half, showing a lot of aggressiveness, which we had lacked in the previous two quarters," Roma coach Jasmin Repesa said. "We were leading 58-52 and we lost an opportunity to break away.
We lost our focus and we allowed Maccabi to get back in the game with Nikola Vujcic and Derrick Sharp's three-pointers."
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