Gran Canaria stays perfect at home to advance to Top 16
Herbalife Gran Canaria sealed its qualification to the Top 16 by downing 90-82 Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana at Gran Canaria Arena on Wednesday night. The hosts trailed 18-25 early in the second quarter, but managed to get ahead at halftime and retain short leads from then on until Matt Costello and John Shurna buried key three-pointers in key moments to prevent the visitors from coming back. Gran Canaria improved to 6-2 atop of Group D along with Dolomiti Energia Trento, while Cedevita dropped to 4-3. Costello led the winners with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks for a PIR of 27, followed by Khalifa Diop, who posted career highs in points (14), rebounds (8), assists (2), blocks (2) and PIR (25). Andrew Albicy added 14 points and 4 assists, Stanley Okoye contributed 13 points and 8 rebounds, Tomas Dimsa tallied 12 on 3-of-4 three-point shooting, while Franco Ferrari dished 10 assists for Gran Canaria. Kendrick Perry paced Buducnost with a career-high 25 points and 32 PIR, followed by Jaka Blazic and Rion Brown, who contributed 22 and 12 points respectively.
Costello and Diop got Gran Canaria going from inside, but the visitors adjusted better on defense and found Perkins on offense to lead 7-8. Neither team managed to escape. Ivan Marinkovic provided a nice floater and Blazic added a free throw and a three-pointer to get Cedevita back in front, 13-16, but Dimsa replied immediately from downtown to close the first quarter with all tied. Brown came up big with consecutive three-pointers, the second one with an additional free throw, to spark a 0-9 run that made it 18-25. Gran Canaria didn’t panic, though, as Albicy drilled the first three of the game for the hosts and Dimsa followed him with another one of its own to keep Cedevita in sight. After another tie at 26-26 midway through the second quarter, Blazic provided 5 points in a row to make it 28-31. Shurna and Okoye combined to bring the Yellows back ahead, 35-34. Both teams exchanged blows and traded leads from then on until Costello went to the line to keep his team ahead 41-40 at halftime.
The hosts got hot early after the break with a three-pointer by Ferrari and a thunderous throwdown by Okoye, but Blazic and Edo Muric replied from outside to keep Cedevita into the game, 46-45. Dimsa took over and started a rain of three-pointers by the hosts as Costello and Ferrari joined to make it 55-47. Diop added a basket-plus-foul later to raise the difference to double-digits. Jones tried to help his team with back-to-back triples. Cedevita used an unsportsmanlike foul and more three-pointers from Perry in an 0-9 run to get within 63-62. Shurna and Albicy came to the rescue to prevent the visitors from completing the rally and allowed Gran Canaria to enter the last quarter leading 68-64. Both teams swapped baskets as the difference remained steady for a while. Okoye added a couple of free throws ad Albicy emerged to hit a contested three to make it 78-69 and force an urgent timeout by Cedevita with 6 minutes to play. The visitors refused to give up, as Blazic and Brown combined for 9 points to make it a one-possession game, 83-81, entering the last 2 minutes. Diop came up big at that moment, drawing a foul, scoring a free throw and grabbing an offensive rebound that enabled Shurna to drill a key triple that extended the margin to 87-81. Perkins and Dimsa traded free throws right before Blazic missed a three and Costello scored a layup that sealed Gran Canaria’s win and its qualification for the Top16.
Olimpija ran Gran Canaria off the boards 46-33 the last time they met, including 13 offensive rebounds for 17 second-chance points. But, on this night, the Yellows’ frontcourt dominated. They outrebounded Cedevita 37-28 and registered a club-record 9 blocks, with Matt Costello leading the way with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks.
18-years old Khalifa Diop had a magic night in which he registered career highs in points (14), rebounds (8), assists (2), blocks (2) and PIR (25). His performance was not only statistically relevant, but he scored a free throw and grabbed a key offensive rebound in crunch time to help his team qualify for the next phase.
Numbers don’t lie
Gran Canaria not only was better in rebounding and blocks, but in all other statistical categories but two (steals and turnovers). The hosts shot the ball better from all distances (58.1% in 2-points, 51.9% in three-pointers and 75% from the line) and had 14 more assists for a PIR of 118.
Both teams will play at home their Round 9 games, as Herbalife Gran Canaria hosts Frutti Extra Bursaspor on Wednesday, December 9, and Cedevita Olimpia Ljubljana welcomes Group D leader Dolomiti Energia Trento the day before.
Thursday, November 19, 2020