Eurocup Hoops: Hap J’lem suffers setback in Russia

Team loses 78-71 at Unics Kazan.

Hapoel Jerusalem’s campaign to reach the Eurocup quarterfinals was dealt its first blow on Tuesday night with a 78-71 loss at Unics Kazan.
Jerusalem, which entered the game with a 2-0 record in the Last 16, remained in striking distance of the Russians throughout the first half and even led briefly after the break. However, Kazan seized control of the encounter in the third period and kept Hapoel at bay until the final whistle.
Despite the loss, Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes was encouraged by the final gap of defeat, which he believes his side can overturn to clinch the tiebreaker when the teams meet at Malha Arena in two weeks’ time.
“This was a tough game and, despite the fact that this can be considered a good result, we are disappointed,” Goodes said.
“The players gave their all and fought until the final second. Even with our turnovers and poor rebounding we managed to remain in the game.”
Hapoel turned the ball over a whopping 21 times, and was outrebounded 40-32, with Kazan taking 17 offensive boards.
Dijon Thompson and Kevinn Pinkney scored 13 points each for Jerusalem, with Yuval Naimi adding 12 points.
“Kazan has offensive weapons in every position and it wasn’t easy to stop them,” said Uri Kukia, who scored 10 points and hauled in eight rebounds.
“We will have to beat them by a larger margin with the fans’ support at Malha.”
Marko Popovic led Kazan with 26 points, scoring 18 in the second half, with Terrell Lyday contributing 12 points.
Kazan held a slender gap at the start of the game, but Hapoel was never too far behind and a Tre Simmons basket tied the score at 16-16. Jerusalem took the lead in the subsequent minutes and had a two-point margin (21-19) at the end of the first period.
A tight second quarter ended in a one-point Kazan advantage (40-39), but Jerusalem would take the lead after scoring the first basket of the second half.
However, Hapoel would soon find itself playing on its heels, with the Russians tightening their defense in the third period and holding the visitors to just 13 points in the entire quarter.
A Sharon Sasson lay-up gave Jerusalem a 46-45 advantage midway through the period, but that would prove to be Hapoel’s last lead of the night, with Kazan going on a 12-2 run to open a gap it would not surrender.
The hosts had a seven-point cushion (59-52) at the start of the fourth quarter and a Lyday three-pointer opened a 12-point margin (64-52).
A Pinkney triple brought Hapoel within six points (67-61), but Jerusalem came no closer to completing a comeback and dropped to its first defeat in the Eurocup Last 16.