hapoel jerusalem 88.
(photo credit: )
Hapoel Jerusalem crashed to its third defeat in four ULEB Cup games Tuesday night, losing 88-87 to Telindus Oostende of Belgium at Malha Arena.
Jerusalem now faces the real prospect of an early elimination from the competition after being outplayed by an inferior European side for a second straight week. Hapoel will need a dramatic turnaround in form and unlikely wins against superior teams in the next few weeks if it's to have any chance of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the next round.
Hapoel was out rebounded 41-29 by Oostende, with the Belgians taking 13 boards on offense. The hosts' play under the basket was awful at best and they will need a vast improvement in that aspect of their game if they are to beat Alba Berlin next week in Germany.
Jerusalem trailed Oostende for most of the game and despite not falling to far behind, never managed to complete its comeback.
"We were very confused tonight, especially at the start of the game," Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir said. "This is a very disappointing defeat and we will need to overcome it. The team is in a bad state, but we still have a lot of games left and we will need to get ourselves out of this situation. Whatever needs changing will be changed."
Timmy Bowers and Mario Austin led Jerusalem with 21 points each, while Meir Tapiro had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Rashad Wright was Oostende's best player on court, scoring 25 points and dictating his side's play. Elvir Ovcina scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Vanja Plisnic had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
"We are back in the ULEB Cup," interim Oostende coach Umberto Badioli said. "This group is very difficult and every team is capable of beating the other."
Jerusalem began the game poorly and Oostende took an early lead. Five straight points by Ovcina gave the Belgians a 17-13 lead, but poor shooting by Oostende kept Hapoel within reach. A three-pointer by Wright with 10 seconds to go in the first period gave the visitors their biggest lead of the game (24-15), and the quarter ended with a 24-17 Jerusalem deficit.
A three-point move by Austin midway through the second period cut the margin to two points (30-28), but the hosts couldn't take the lead. Two points by Plisnic put Oostende up by seven (35-28) once more.
Dror Hajaj came off the bench to score five straight points and cut the margin to 35-33. However, the Belgians wouldn't relinquish their advantage and enjoyed a five-point lead (41-36) at halftime.
Three points by Tapiro at the start of the second half put the hosts within two points, and five consecutive points by Austin put Jerusalem in the lead (48-45).
Hapoel wouldn't stay ahead for long. Two straight Ovcina baskets from beyond the arc recaptured the lead for the visitors (55-51). Oostende held on to their four-point margin until the end of the period, with a three-pointer by Sam Van Rossom making the score 65-61 ahead of the last 10 minutes of the game.
Nothing was going right for Jerusalem in the fourth period and the visitors remained in front. Two points by Bowers cut the margin to one point, but Wright kept the Belgians ahead.
Even though Hapoel came within one point at the end of the game, Oostende deserved its win and Hapoel players left the floor to jeers.
Jeremy Last contributed to this report.
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