By JACOB KANTER
Hapoel Jerusalem claimed a significant 93-74 Eurocup victory over KK Zadar at the Malha Arena on Tuesday night to improve to 2-1 in Group C. Its large margin of victory coupled with Aris Thessaloniki's surprise 92-91 defeat at BC Siauliai on Tuesday considerably improves its chances of advancing to the last 16.
Hapoel point guard Yogev Ohayon more than tripled his minutes from the two previous Eurocup games combined, scoring 11 points and handing out seven assists to lead the Jerusalem attack.
Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes knew that Zadar's perimeter shooting was its strength, as the Croats had shot 58 percent from beyond the arc compared to 52.5 percent from inside in its two Eurocup games.
"We prepared for their threes," Goodes said after the game. "We prepared for their speed, we prepared for their key players, and we carried it out fantastically." The preparation paid off, as Hapoel held Zadar to 32.1 percent shooting from long range, and 42.2 percent overall from the field.
The quickness of Jerusalem's forwards allowed the home team to switch on screens and keep a hand in the face of the opposing ball handler at all times.
But as suffocating as the defense was, the half-court offense was equally breathtaking.
Backdoor cuts were executed to perfection, improvised fadeaway jumpers continuously hit the bottom of the net, and quick interior passing led to countless dunks and layups - many of which were converted by forward Dijon Thompson, who led Jerusalem with 20 points.
"Because of our defense, we were able to take [Zadar] out of the pace of the game and disrupt their concentration," said Goodes.
Jerusalem opened the game on a 9-2 run over the first three minutes, pressuring Zadar into contested three pointers. And though its defense never wavered, Zadar forward Vladimer Boisa soon took over the quarter, scoring 11 of his 17 points to bring his team to within two at 18-16.
But Jerusalem guard Pooh Jeter hit a fallaway baseline jumper at the buzzer to end the quarter, and the hosts led 20-16.
Goodes started Ohayon in the second, which began with a Zadar breakaway to cut the lead back to two. But a deep three from Jeter, who finished 18 points, followed by a thunderous Thompson dunk forced Zadar coach Zmagoslav Sagadin to call a time out a minute into the quarter.
The time out worked in Hapoel's favor, however, as the Ohayon's crisp passing and the team's efficient free throw shooting sent Goodes's squad en route to a game-breaking 20-5 run over the last seven minutes-a span in which Zadar hit only one field goal-and a 52-32 lead at halftime.
Goodes kept Ohayon in the game until nearly midway through the fourth, and the six-year veteran ensured that the hosts' lead would never come close to disappearing. Zadar could only get within 17 in the third, and trailed by as many as 28 in the fourth.
Forwards Leo Lyons and Uri Kokia, who was named player of the game after making a number of hustle plays and crowd-pleasing blocks, were able to force their will under the basket, grabbing a third - 22 of 33 - of Jerusalem's rebounds between them.
A scary moment occurred with only a few minutes left in the game when Hapoel starting point guard Yuval Naimi, who only played 14 minutes to make way for Ohayon, collided with a defender and wasn't able to walk off the court under his own power. Goodes said that it was only a slight strain, however, and that he should not miss much time.
With its record at 2-1 midway through the group stage of the Eurocup, Hapoel stands a good chance of advancing to the round of 16, and Goodes expects his players to reach that level.
"I expect this from my team every game," Goodes said.
Jerusalem's next Eurocup game will be played at Zadar on December 15, but the Reds host Hapoel Afula this Saturday night at 8:15 in the eighth week of the Israeli BSL.
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