Yuval Naimi .
(photo credit: BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem moved into top spot in Eurocup Group J on Tuesday night with a stylish 100-87 home victory over Turkish side Galatasaray.
Israeli shooting guard Yogev Ohayon was the catalyst for Jerusalem’s success, scoring 18 points while playing with a frenetic energy that inspired his teammates to build on the surprise win in Valencia a week ago.
Yuval Naimi scored 14 points and Tre Simmons added 13 as Hapoel surprisingly improved to 2-0 in the Last 16 round.
Although Jerusalem put in a superb offensive performance, the story of the game was the home side’s defense, which allowed it to hold on to a 10-point lead it opened up in the second quarter until the end.
Hapoel travels to Russia next week to play Unics Kazan, which lost 72-68 at home to Valencia earlier Tuesday night.
“We just played good team defense,” a delighted Simmons told The Jerusalem Post
in the locker room.
“Even though we are 2-0, we still have a lot of work to do and there will be pressure on us next week. But tonight it feels good.”
Galatasaray coach Cem Akdag was clearly upset about his team’s defensive misgivings, which saw the Turks allow 22 turnovers and admitted it will be “very difficult” for his team to qualify for the next round.
Guard Darius Washington, who top-scored with 29 points, branded Jerusalem “a great team.”
“It was their night tonight and they took advantage of it,” he said. “Most of our turnovers came from lack of communication, playing too fast. It was hard trying to come back… you have the crowd against you and they have the adrenaline going. They made some unbelievable shots but tonight we just didn’t play our game, we didn’t play Galatasaray basketball.”
After Brandon Hunter scored the first four points for Jerusalem, the home team didn’t begin the game too well, missing successive three-point attempts.
Simmons finally found his three-point range midway through the first quarter and Jerusalem was ahead by a point, at 17-16.
The game stayed tight through the end of the first and start of the second quarters but Jerusalem was fighting for every ball and an Ohayon steal and dunk gave Jerusalem its biggest lead of the night so far at 37-32.
Akdag took a time out, but it didn’t help, as Pooh Jeter scored two points and Ohayon got another three to open up a ten-point advantage which it held on to for most of the night.
The arena was jumping as the crowd urged their team on. Former Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Simas Jasaitis was one of the few bright sparks for the visitors, scoring six points in the first half. Washington, as well, attempted to keep the Turks in the hunt, but Simmons had no such thoughts, downing a three to extend the lead to 12 points (49-37).
Jerusalem kept the momentum going in the third quarter as Ohayaon scored a jumper, and the home team was winning by 14 points (63-49).
But Galatasaray was not done by any means. A series of quick points cut the Jerusalem advantage – which had been as large as 14 points – to eight at 65-57 with just under three minutes left in the period.
With the clock winding down, the visitors cut into the lead some more, getting to within six, but Leo Lyons got a tap-in and the gap stayed at eight going into the final stanza.
Uri Kukia started the fourth with intent, stealing and scoring to put
Hapoel up by 10 (75-65). And he was was soon followed by a Naimi three.
Although Jerusalem missed a few chances to score in the paint towards
the end, tough offensive rebounding from Kukia and Ohayon ensured the
hosts kept possession and eventually got two points through Dijon
Thompson at the foul line with two minutes to go.
Despite its efforts Galatasaray wasn’t in the game. When Murat Kaya
missed a three-point attempt with 55 seconds left to keep the score
97-83, it was all but over.
Ohayon capped his performance with a clutch three to bring Hapoel up to
the 100 point mark and Jerusalem took the well-earned victory.