LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne had nothing to gain and was short-handed with injuries on Tuesday, but the French side watched its talented youngsters come up big in an 81-84 overtime victory at Zenit St Petersburg.
Having already locked up second place in Group C, ASVEL was playing without two starters and its top scorer off the bench: Miro Bilan, David Lighty and AJ Slaughter, respectively. Head coach Zvezdan Mitrovic's winning answer? To give more responsibility to the club's future leaders.
The 21-year-old Amine Noua set or tied five career highs with 17 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and a 22 performance index rating. The big man also grabbed 7 rebounds. The 17-year-old Theo Maledon was equally impressive with career highs of 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a PIR of 17. Maledon committed just 1 turnover in almost 30 minutes of action and hit pairs of big free throws twice, at the end of regulation and at the end of overtime.
"In the second half and overtime the guys played a lot better. More effort, more energy," said Mitrovic, who also gave nearly 5 minutes of playing time each to 19-year-olds Khadim Sow and Sofiane Briki. "I am especially talking about the young guys who haven't played at this level. In the second half, we really deserved to win the game. We played without any pressure."
Both Noua and Maledon have already shown this season why they are highly regarded. But this was a chance to show their stuff with no pressure. And they did just that.