ASVEL rides defense to win in Frankfurt
LDLC Asvel Villeurbanne maintained its perfect record in Group F with a 58-70 road victory at winless Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt. Defense did the job for the French side, which restricted Skyliners to no more than 17 points in each quarter and forced a total of 17 turnovers. ASVEL's top scorer was Theo Maledon with 15 points, all in the first half, while Mantas Kalnietis combined 13 points with 4 assists. AJ Slaughter and David Lighty both scored 10. Skyliners was paced by 17 points from Jonas Wohlfarth-Botterman and Jason Clark added 13.
Miro Bilan opened the scoring with a pair of close-range finishes, but Wohlfarth-Botterman responded with three straight baskets for the hosts. Clark and Lighty both scored twice to keep it close and it was 15-18 at the end of the first. Elijah Clarance struck his second three-pointer and split free throws to send Skyliners ahead, 21-20. Teen star Maledon restored ASVEL's lead with two scores from beyond the arc and a big slam by Alpha Kaba made it 29-33 at the half. A pair of baskets from Slaughter kept ASVEL ahead as the low-scoring nature of the game continued in the third quarter. Slaughter netted a triple before Charles Kahudi scored a layup for a 41-49 lead at the end of the third. A three-point play by Wohlfarth-Botterman and a triple from Garai Zeeb gave Skyliners hope early in the fourth, but ASVEL's defense then took over and 5 consecutive points from Kalnietis stretched the lead to 47-60. A 6-0 run kept the home team hoping, but Kalnietis scored again to keep ASVEL safe.
Long-range shooting woes
In a game dominated by defenses, there was a real paucity of points from long-range. The first quarter saw just 1 three-pointer from either team, scored by Skyliners' Elijah Clarance. Nobody else netted from beyond the arc until nearly 17 minutes had elapsed and that trend continued throughout as the two teams finished with a combined tally of 10 of 40 three-pointers.
Maledon catches the eye
Theo Maledon was the undoubted star of the show in the opening stanza. The 17-year-old ASVEL guard scored 15 of his team's first 29 points, converting his first 4 field goals and 5 free throws. He didn't score again in the second half as Mantas Kalnietis – nearly twice his age – took over, but he had already done enough to showcase his huge potential.
Defense takes ASVEL home
The outcome was settled midway through the final quarter. Skyliners had given itself fresh hope by scoring 6 points in a minute, reducing the deficit to 47-53, but ASVEL then stiffened its defense and kept the home side scoreless for more than three minutes, allowing the visitors to move into a decisive double-digit lead.
The two teams will meet again, this time in France, in Top 16 Round 4 next Tuesday evening.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019