Hapoel Jerusalem blown out at home by Vilnius

Reds still can’t duplicate BSL form in Eurocup, drop to 1-4 after another dejecting performance.

Hapoel Jerusalem coach Danny Franco (photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem coach Danny Franco
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s dismal start to its Eurocup campaign only got worse on Wednesday.
Hapoel dropped to an 81-70 defeat to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius at the Jerusalem Arena, falling to 1-4 in regular season Group E.
Jerusalem’s three previous defeats in the competition came by relatively small margins and were only decided in the fourth quarters. However, Hapoel was truly outplayed on Wednesday.
Vilnius built a promising lead at the end of the first period and dominated until the final buzzer.
The Lithuanians were lethal from three-point range, hitting 13-of-29 attempts, while Jerusalem failed to score even one of its six shots from beyond the arc.
A late 15-2 run made the final score slightly more respectable, but Hapoel never really came close to completing a comeback and coach Danny Franco was given plenty to mull over once more.
“We tried to block out what had happened in the Eurocup so far, but sometimes even when you really want something things don’t work out,” said Franco, whose team has won its six BSL games to date by an average margin of 22.3 points. “We weren’t focused on offense and that allowed them to run. We will keep trying until we found our way.”
Donta Smith was excellent for Jerusalem once more, but his 23 points and six assists weren’t enough. Joseph Jones added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the hosts, who were missing the injured Bracey Wright.
Gediminas Orelik led four Rytas players in double figures with 16 points.
Jerusalem finds itself in a precarious position at the halfway mark of the regular season, but still remains within one game of a place in the top four, who will advance to the Last 32.
A top-three finish already looks out of reach for Hapoel, but the reds will hope to leapfrog Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd (2-3), which currently sits in fourth position.
Vilnius and Banvit Bandirma lead the group at 4-1, with CSU Ploiesti at 3-2 after suffering a surprise 76-69 loss on Wednesday to the previously winless Partizan Belgrade.
Jerusalem hosts Bandirma next week before playing three of its final four regular season games on the road.
Vilnius seized control after scoring nine of the final 11 points of the first period to open a 21-14 advantage. A Mindaugas Lukauskis three-pointer at the start of the second frame took the gap to double digits for the first time (24-14), with Jerusalem struggling to defend Rytas from beyond the arc.
Adas Juskevicius took his personal tally to 10 points with his second triple midway through the second quarter to keep the visitors ahead by double digits (33-22) and force Franco to call a timeout. Jerusalem closed to within six points (36-30), only for the Lithuanians to end the first half with a 7-0 run to take a 13-point margin (43-30) into the break.
Matters only deteriorated for Jerusalem in the second half, with Rytas all but securing the win after taking a 62-44 lead into the final 10 minutes. Vilnius’s gap already reached 19 points (72-53), but Hapoel went on a 15-2 surge out of nowhere to close within six points with 1:39 minutes to play. However, it was too little too late for Jerusalem, which finds itself in serious danger of being knocked out of Europe at the first hurdle.