Hapoel Jerusalem burst out of the gate and never looked back on the way to its first victory of the season in the ULEB Cup Tuesday night at Malcha.
Mario Austin scored 17, grabbed seven rebounds and dished five assists as Hapoel cruised 80-65.
It seemed to take the Frankfurt Skyliners most of the first quarter to land thenselves in the game, and by that time Hapoel was up 14-1.
But Jerusalem's solid performance is no cause for euphoria, especially with one of the toughest week's of the young season just around the corner. On Sunday Hapoel travels north to face Ironi Nahariya in a challenging BSL encounter and will travel from there directly to the airport on the way to Italy where the reds will meet Lottomatica Roma next Tuesday.
The 2004 ULEB Cup champs scored on their first five trips down the court and held Frankfurt scoreless until Nino Garris hit a three-pointer with 2:47 remaining in the quarter. But the players seemed to let up against their weaker opponents and never pulled away.
"We don't yet have that killer instinct and after starting 10-0 it was tough for the players to mentally remain focused," coach Erez Edelstein summed up afterwards.
That lack of focus became apparent when big Malick Badiane heated up midway through the second quarter. He scored eight during a fourminute stretch that saw Hapoel turn the ball over three times and shoot 1-for-5 as the Skyliners built a 12-3 run. Rudy Mbemba's fast break layup capped the blitz and cut the Jerusalem lead to 34-29.
The hosts quickly regained composure and pushed their lead back to double-digits on back-to-back threes by Tamar Slay and Roger Mason Jr. to take a 44-33 halftime advantage.
Former Ra'anana big man Mate Malisa started the second half with a three, but that Horace Jenkins answered at the other end and Frankfurt never got within single digits after that.
Malisa was impressed with Jerusalem's play, but credited his team's poor performance with the end result. "They played pretty good defense, but it was more about us playing bad than them playing great," he said.
Three of Frankfurt starters - Badiane, Mbemba and Alex King - plus the leading scorer, swingman Mladjen Sljivancanin who made four threepointers on his way to 14 points, are aged 21 or less, a fact which worked in Jerusalem's favor, according to Skyliner coach Ivan Sunara. "It's not easy for a young team like ours to come back from down 14," he said.
Not of that bothered Edelstein, who looked to take the positives from his team's showing.
"We caused them 23 turnovers, had 20 assists and would have had more if not for some easy misses," Edelstein said.
"We held our opponents to 41percent from two-[pointrange], but didn't get to the line enough."
Hapoel shot 11-for-12 from the charity stripe.
Jenkins scored 15 and had six assists, Mason added 14 and Erez Marckovitch came off the bench to score 10. All 12 players that dressed saw action, with only Mason reaching the 30-minute barrier.
Badiane finished with 12 for Frankfurt, which dropped to 0-2 in the competition.