Game 1 of the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals might have not started as planned for LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, but it ended just like the French side hoped it would as it protected its home court with a 79-75 victory over MoraBanc Andorra.
Things did not look good for ASVEL in the first half. The competition's best defense was burned for 42 points in the first two quarters, while the offense was out of rhythm caused by MoraBanc mixing man-to-man defense with 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses.
“They never played zone defense this season, maybe one offensive [possession] that we saw scouting their games”, ASVEL head coach Zvezda Mitrovic admitted after the game. “That was a surprise for us.”
His players made just 2 of 12 three-point attempts before halftime and in the opening minute of the third quarter found themselves behind 34-44. That’s when team captain, 32-year old Charles Kahudi, stepped up in a major way.
Kahudi scored his first basket of the night, a three-pointer, with 7:30 to go in the third quarter to make it 40-44. He followed it up with a layup, soon hit another triple, and proceed to bag 18 points in a span of 5 and a half minutes. That included 4 three-pointers. After his fastbreak layup with 2:06 left in the third made it 59:57, ASVEL never relinquished its lead again.
"Kahudi played really great," Mitrovic praised him. "He really showed a captain’s face. He took the team and the team followed him."
With Kahudi hurting them from the outside and Miro Bilan adding a couple of baskets inside, MoraBanc stopped playing zone defense and that's where ASVEL knew it had regained control of the game. It was a fight until the end, but ASVEL took a 1-0 lead and is now one step away from reaching its first-ever EuroCup semifinal.
The first chance it will have to get there is on Friday. Now the pressure is on MoraBanc, which is perfect at home this season.