ULEB Cup: Hap J'lem must improve for Besiktas clash

Nothing but a strong win will do if the Israeli team wants to have any real chance of advancing in the two-legged series.

Hap jlem ULEB 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hap jlem ULEB 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem's players trainers and management were hosted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday in an event at his office to congratulate the team on its historic victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the State Cup final two weeks ago. But, although coach Dan Shamir and his staff gratefully accepted Olmert's praise for the team, their minds were clearly on other matters. Jerusalem hosts Turkish powerhouse Besiktas JK in the last 32 of the ULEB Cup on Tuesday knowing that nothing but a strong win will do if the Israeli team wants to have any real chance of advancing in the two-legged series. The second leg will be played in Turkey in a week's time and the team with the highest aggregate score will advance to the last 16 ahead of the newly launched final eight tournament in Turin. Hapoel was full of joy and confidence after the State Cup win where the Reds overcame a 22-point second half deficit to defeat Maccabi on its own court. But things haven't gone so well since then. Jerusalem lost its two subsequent league games, falling to arch rivals Hapoel Holon and Maccabi Tel Aviv in quick succession, so a massive improvement is needed. Star center Jamie Arnold was not himself on Sunday night against Tel Aviv and will be expected to step up on Tuesday against Besiktas. While Jerusalem only sneaked into the last 32 as one of the best fourth-place finishers in the group stage, the Turkish side this year became the first club to ever finish the ULEB Cup regular season undefeated. Besiktas's strength is in its usual starting five, guards Christian Dalmau and Rick Apodaca, small forward Preston Shumpert and big men Kaya Peker and Sandro Nicevic, all of whom averaged at least 28 minutes per game and four of whom averaged at least 12 points per game in the group stage. Dalmau is one of the most impressive players in the team, tying the competition's single-game assist record with 14 in the group stage. Although Besiktas has a far better record than its opponent, Dalmau remained trepeditious ahead of the match. "Hapoel Jerusalem is always a very competitive team, very tough. Also, we are in the elimination rounds, so every game is important and everything is going to be tougher," the Puerto Rican told the ULEB Cup Web site. Former Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Sharon Sasson was second in the ULEB Cup group stage in three-point shooting percentage and is looking forward to the matchup. "I know they [Besiktas] finished the regular season with a perfect record, and that says a lot. They have great players, some of whom played in the Euroleague, which means it will be anything but easy for us against them." Hapoel Afula/Gilboa 79, Hapoel Holon 93 In the BSL on Monday night Hapoel Holon stormed past Afula/Gilboa 93-79 to move up to third in the standings. The visiting Holon team held a 43-39 lead at half time and the scores stayed close at the start of the second half. With 3:15 left in the third quarter it was tied at 51. But in the last period Holon pulled away. With five minutes to go the visitors had a 72-66 lead and two and half minutes later that had been stretched to nearly 20 points (84-66).