Nikola Vujcic became the first player in the history of the modern Euroleague to record a triple-double and Kirk Penney erupted for 19 points in his Maccabi Tel Aviv debut as the two-time defending champs overcame a slow start to steamroll Polish champion Prokom Trefl Sopot 95-68 Thursday night at a refurbished Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv.
Vujcic finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a fantastic display of skills near and far away from the basket. Penney was also a hit with the Maccabi fans, coming off the bench to hit a pair of first-quarter threes and never stopping.
Arnold impressed after sitting out the entire first half, but taking control in the end, even though the game had essentially been decided.
Vujcic enjoyed his team's win and wasn't necessarily seeking the triple-double. "I didn't know [about it] until I returned to the bench," he said afterwards.
Arnold enjoyed playing alongside the big Croatian. "Nikola is great. He makes everyone around him better and playing with him makes everything easier."
While the sellout crowd has already learned how dominant a player Vujcic can be, Penney's performance was a pleasant surprise.
"I see what Maccabi is all about now," Penney later said. "The crowd is so passionate. It reminds me of my college days. I've been working hard in practice and when I got my chance I took it. I'm going to enjoy tonight."
Coach Pini Gershon wasn't too moved by the result. "We learn nothing from this game," he said.
Prokom led 19-12 with 1:53 remaining in the opening quarter when Gershon called an uncharacteristic timeout and inserted Penney and new team captain Derrick Sharp in place of Will Solomon and Tal Burstein.
The move proved to be a stroke of genius, as Sharp drew a foul shooting for three on his first touch and made all three resulting free throws. Then Penney sandwiched a pair of threes around a Prokom score and reigning Euroleague MVP Parker ended the period with a jumper to put Maccabi up 23-21. The yellow-and-blue never trailed again.
Maccabi pieced together runs in each of the remaining periods as the game slowly became a blowout. The fourth quarter was all about waiting for Vujcic to get the two assists he needed to achieve his historic feat.
Allon Sinai contributed to this report.
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