Hapoel Jerusalem didn't look much better in France than it does in Israel as the club dropped its ULEB Cup opener on the road at Le Mans Tuesday night 78-66.
It could have ended up even worse as the reds trailed by as many as 18 in the fourth quarter and often played out of control. Despite Hapoel's big names, Erez Edelstein's charges continue to have problems building chemistry and creating a situation where the team's talent will win it games.
Aside from the chance to start Group D of the competition on the right foot, Jerusalem also missed an opportunity to build fans across Europe. The game was the first in the history of the competition to be televised live throughout Europe on Eurosport2.
Jerusalem shot poorly all night long, making only half of its free throws (10-of-20) and shooting 26-of-70 (37.1%) from the field.
Even 20 offensive rebounds weren't enough to make a difference.
Horace Jenkins led Hapoel with 16, while Mario Austin and Meir Tapiro added 11 each. Tapiro also had six rebounds, eight assists and five steals.
Ex-Ironi Nahariya forward Eric Campbell scored 17 for Le Mans, while Huseyin Besok, formerly of Maccabi Tel Aviv, added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"With all due respect to Le Mans, we beat ourselves," Edelstein told the club's Web site afterwards. "Until we make the necessary mental adjustments to our team game, it'll be hard to beat teams less talented than Le Mans."
Le Mans struggled at first to find its way in the game, firing up three-pointers, but hardly trying any other offensive options. Jerusalem benefited from Tapiro's hot hand to build a 17-12 lead that Austin put his stamp on with a powerful two-handed slam, forcing Le Mans coach Vincent Collet to call timeout.
From that point, everything changed. The French scored nine unanswered points to finish the quarter and added seven more to start the second to take control.
Jerusalem struggled offensively throughout the second period, making only two shots over the first nine minutes as Le Mans's lead slowly grew. A Yannick Bokolo three with 2:30 left in the half gave the hosts their biggest lead, 41-25.
Finally in the last minute Hapoel strung together some offense led by Tamar Slay with a jump shot and a steal and dunk to trim the gap to 43-33 at halftime.
Early in the third period Jerusalem crept within seven, but that was as close as it would get. Hapoel was never able to play above the level of Le Mans - when the French stepped up on defense, so did Jerusalem and when the French ran scored, Jerusalem tried the same.
Le Mans gave Jerusalem more chances in the fourth quarter, turning the ball over on three straight possessions, but Hapoel responded with a missed three-pointer and a Jenkins offensive foul. With 3:30 remaining Kenny Gregory threw down a dunk to the delight of the home crowd and converted a free throw that put Le Mans ahead 74-56.
Like at the end of the first half, a late flurry helped Jerusalem make the score a tad more respectable, but the bottom line was clear. Jerusalem still has a lot of work to do.
In other Group D games, Dynamo Moscow topped Red Star Belgrade 83-77 and Virtus Roma defeated Frankfurt Skyliners 54-50.
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