Hap J’lem stumbles in Eurocup opener

Katash’s Reds fall behind the eight-ball early and can’t recover on road vs Donetsk.

Yuval Naimi 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Yuval Naimi 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem opened its Eurocup campaign with a disappointing defeat on Tuesday night, losing 80-71 to BC Donetsk in Kiev.
Donetsk held a slim lead throughout most of the game, with Jerusalem being forced to chase the plucky hosts.
The Ukrainians won each of the first three quarters by three points and eventually had little trouble maintaining the ninepoint margin they took into the final quarter.
“All in all it was a close game with a slight advantage for Donetsk,” Jerusalem coach Oded Katash said.
“We had several chances to erase their lead in the fourth quarter and it is a shame we didn’t manage to do so. All our games in European competition are going to be tough. This is only the beginning of our campaign and we will improve what needs improving. We are now facing two straight home games in the Eurocup and this is our chance to get back on track.”
Jerusalem held Donetsk to 37 percent from two-point range (16 of 43), while hitting an impressive 52 percent of its attempts from inside the arc (25 of 48).
However, Katash’s team was outrebounded 46-35, allowing the hosts 17 offensive boards, and left itself little chance of winning by shooting 18 percent (3 of 16) from three-point range and 12 of 21 from the free-throw line.
The fact Jerusalem tallied just eight assists in the game shows just how much the Reds struggled on offense, with their 15 turnovers also far from helpful.
As usual in recent weeks, D.J.
Strawberry provided the bright spot for Jerusalem, scoring 22 points, hitting nine of 10 shots from two-point range, but only converting on one of five attempts from beyond the arc.
“We had some good minutes, but made mistakes towards the end,” Strawberry said.
“We wanted to open our campaign with a win, but I have no doubt we will do better in our next games.”
Yuval Naimi was Jerusalem’s only other player in double-figures with 17 points.
Dmytro Gliebov had 15 points for Donetsk, with Vule Avdalovic adding 14 points.
In Group A’s other game, BCM Gravelines of France thrashed Cibona Zagreb in Croatia 101-71.
The Croats visit Jerusalem at Malha Arena next week, with Gravelines to host Donetsk.
On Tuesday, a Naimi threepointer gave Jerusalem its first lead of the night (13-11) late in the first period, but the hosts had the edge (23-20) after 10 minutes and maintained a small lead throughout the second quarter.
Maksym Pustozvonov’s basket to end the first half gave Donetsk a 40-34 advantage at the break, and for all its efforts, Jerusalem just couldn’t catch the Ukrainians.
A Naimi three-point play tied the score at 43-43 midway through the third frame, but Donetsk regained control by scoring 11 of the next 15 points and Avdalovic’s triple opened up a double-digit margin (61-51).
The hosts took a comfortable nine-point cushion (63-54) into the final 10 minutes, but Jerusalem managed to close within five points (73-68) with just under four minutes to play thanks to a Guni Izraeli jumper.
However, that would be as close as the visitors would come, with Donetsk going on a 7-0 run to reestablish a doubledigit lead on the way to an important win.