(photo credit: AP [file])
Hapoel Jerusalem came up just short in its ULEB Cup opener against Khimki Moscow on Tuesday night, losing 87-79 in Moscow.
Jerusalem led for large parts of the game, but a 12-0 run by the hosts in the third quarter and an excellent fourth period by former Jerusalem star Kelly McCarty gave Khimki a small lead it would hold of until the end of the game.
Despite losing, Hapoel can be encouraged with the level of its play at this early stage of the season. Jerusalem was clinical on offense, scoring with ease, and until it tired in the second half it displayed a good defensive game.
Hapoel's biggest problem on Tuesday was the defensive rebounding. The Russians took 18 offensive rebounds and Jerusalem will need to improve its play under the baskets ahead of the second ULEB Cup game against Montepaschi Siena next week in Jerusalem.
"We are disappointed," Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir said. "Playing well for a few minutes is not good enough. The game is played for 40 minutes. I think they played much more aggressive in the second half and we paid for it. They were the better side in the second half and they deserved to win. This is a strong group. We will need to work hard for every win we get and we will prepare properly for the game against Siena."
Timmy Bowers led Hapoel with 22 points in his first European game with his new team, with Mario Austin adding 20 points. New signings Jurica Golemac, who scored 17 points and passed 6 assists, and Ed Cota, who had 11 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, were both impressive and give Hapoel fans a cause for optimism.
McCarty scored 20 in his first game against his former team, with Boris Gorenc adding 14 points and 6 rebounds.
Jerusalem held Khimki to a measly four points in the first five minutes of the game, but Hapoel had a difficult time scoring and led by only two points midway through the period.
The low-scoring first period remained tight throughout and a last-second jumper by Khimki forward Gorenc cut his team's deficit to one point (15-14).
The Russians took their first lead of the game at the start of the second period, but Austin's excellent play on offense gave his team a 27-22 advantage. A Golemc threepointer gave Hapoel a seven point lead, but the hosts always remained within striking distance.
A Bowers basket in the last second of the half gave Jerusalem a 43-39 lead and the visitors went into the break encouraged.
Golemc's layup gave Hapoel an eight-point advantage (52-44), its biggest of the game, but Khimki hit back with a 12-0 run that was capped by Gianmarco Pozzecco's three-pointer.
McCarty's triple put the host's nine points ahead with less than two minutes to go in the period, with Jerusalem looking down-and-out. Cota's basket from beyond the arc in the last few seconds of the quarter cut the margin to two points and gave the side something to play for in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Both teams led briefly at the start of the final period, with neither managing to open up a substantial lead. Khimki edged forward thanks to a three by McCarty with five minutes to go, and his jumper soon after gave the hosts an 83-79 lead.
Golemc lost the ball for Jerusalem seconds later and the visitors lost hope of victory. McCarty continued to score at will and gave his team an eight-point win in its ULEB Cup debut.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>