Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar came into the 7DAYS EuroCup as one of the top title contenders. Four straight losses led to the dismissal of head coach Luca Banchi, but the players showed a different face on Wednesday to finally win again.
Lokomotiv dominated over stretches in grabbing a 77-92 victory at Limoges CSP to keep its Top 16 hopes alive with a 3-5 record in Group B with two rounds to go. During the four-game losing streak, Lokomotiv averaged only 70.8 points per game despite an arsenal of weapons including Johnny O'Bryant, Sam Dekker, Dmitry Kulagin and Will Cummings. The powerhouse made just 48.9 percent of its two-points shots in those four games - two of them at home and two on the road - and just 22.5% of its three-point attempts. The team was close in every game, losing by 9 points, 3, 5 and 5 points - which sent the message that the players lacked that winning gene late in games, losing its first game by 6 points and winning Rounds 2 and 3 by 14 and 11 points, respectively.
The firing of Banchi saw his assistant Bogdan Karaicic take over on an interim basis. And the team seemed to respond. Lokomotiv shot a white-hot 69.7% on two-point shots and converted 44.4% of its three-pointers.
"We just had to lock in and get back on track. We dropped four in a row in the EuroCup so we had to come out with a really good mentality and make sure that we took care of business tonight," said Cummings, who tallied 21 points against Limoges - 9 points more than his average of 12.0 in the four-game losing streak. O'Bryant matched his season-high of 24 points after scoring 12.2 points in the four-game skid.
Limoges gave Karaicic reason to be disgruntled as the French team trimmed a 24-point fourth-quarter Lokomotiv lead down to 9 points in the final 2 minutes. But O'Bryant delivered the final knockout punch.
While the team took a step forward, Karaicic said the guys need to learn their lessons from the game and forget it.
"We need to forget this game as soon as possible and focus on the next two games to make it to the Top 16," the coach said.