Yellow-and-blue off to great Top 16 start

Hickman leads way in Turkey as Mac TA notches 9th overall victory in a row by beating Gala.

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Ricky Hickman (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Ricky Hickman
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv opened the Euroleague Top 16 with what could prove to be a vital road win on Thursday night, beating Galatasaray 90-84 in Istanbul.
After an encouraging start, Maccabi found itself down by seven points (47-40) at the halftime break and trailed throughout the third period.
However, an 18-3 run – inspired by Yogev Ohayon and Ricky Hickman – in the fourth quarter stunned the Turks and gave the yellow-and-blue its ninth-straight triumph in all competitions and ninth win in its past 10 Euroleague encounters.
After failing to score more than 78 points in its last eight Euroleague games, a streak stretching back to the end of October, Maccabi’s offense fired on all cylinders on Thursday, with the yellow-and-blue reaching the 90-point mark for just the second time in 11 continental contests this season.
The yellow-and-blue hit 25-of-42 two-point attempts (59 percent) and 10-of-20 three-pointers (50%), while committing just six turnovers.
Hickman scored a season-best 24 points for Maccabi, with 11 of them coming in the final frame.
Ohayon finished with 15 points, while Devin Smith added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Alex Tyus contributed 12 points and 11 boards in another excellent performance in the absence of the injured Shawn James.
Maccabi will host Lokomotiv Kuban in its second Top 16 game next Thursday. Tel Aviv also faced the Russians in the regular season, winning both home and away.
Former Maccabi guard, Carlos Arroyo, scored 19 points for Gala, including five threes, but missed the final 2:40 minutes after suffering an injury. Zoran Erceg added 17 points for the hosts, who connected on 14-of-30 three-point attempts.
With Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow considered to be the favorites to finish Group F in the top two positions, Maccabi knew that a win in Istanbul against a team expected to be one of its main rivals for third place would be significant.
Maccabi played the ball into center Sofoklis Schortsanitis in its first four possessions of the night and the Greek scored the yellow-and-blue’s first five points to give it an early edge.
Sofo would soon pick up fouls, but Tel Aviv nevertheless extended its gap to eight points (25-17) after two consecutive baskets by Tyus.
Arroyo’s second three-pointer of the game to beat the first quarter buzzer limited the damage for the hosts (25-23) and Malik Hairston’s triple to begin the second period gave Gala its first lead of the night.
The Turks would remain in control until the break, leading by as many as nine points (43-34) before taking a seven-point cushion (47-40) into the interval after yet another Arroyo three.
Erceg netted the first points of the second half to take Gala’s gap back to nine points, but Maccabi would never lose touch, and after both sides traded threes, Tel Aviv closed to within just two points (65-63) with 10 minutes to play.
Two consecutive treys by the hosts, the second of which by Ender Arslan, gave the Turks a 71-66 advantage early in the fourth frame, but Galatasaray would score just three points in the subsequent seven minutes and Maccabi surged ahead.
Tel Aviv’s backcourt duo of Ohayon and Hickman terrorized the Turks, with the former scoring seven points and the latter netting six points during an 18-3 run which put the visitors in control (84-74).
Cenk Akyol ended Gala’s rot with a triple with 1:45 minutes remaining, but Hickman immediately replied with a three at the other end to reestablish a double- digit gap (87-77) and secure Maccabi got the Top 16 off on the right foot.