Umana Reyer Venezia fans don’t breathe easily when any of their team’s players draw a foul. Before this week, the Italian champs were distinguished as the worst team in the EuroCup in free throw shooting. Their card showed a poor 61.9%, having finished two games below 50% and above 70% in just two out of eight games so far. But on Tuesday, in France against Limoges, Reyer was a better version of itself from the line.
It's said that free throw shooting is more a mental challenge than a skills issue and we could find proof of that in the game Reyer won at Palais des Sports de Beaublanc. Because, when it came to clutch time, Reyer was perfect, hitting all of its free throws in the last quarter - 8 for 8. Even when Limoges got close in the last minute, rallying from a 14-point disadvantage to get within 70-74 with 33 seconds to go, nobody in Reyer seemed to be thinking about previous mistakes.
Four different players went to the line for Reyer in the last quarter; Austin Daye, Andrea De Nicolao, Ariel Filloy and Mitchell Watt. Not one of them missed a shot and the most remarkable thing is that the latter three made theirs when the situation was most dangerous. De Nicolao nailed two when it was 67-72, Filloy hit twice when it was 70-74, and Watt closed the game with another two when it was 71-76. Nobody trembled, nobody missed, and Reyer escaped with another win, its seventh in a row.
On the flip side, Limoges struggled from the free-throw line like it never had before. It shot 13 for 25 (52%) on Tuesday, a far cry from the 75% mark it had averaged until Round 9. Paul Stoll and Jerry Boutsiele missed three in a row when the game was 71-76 with less than 20 seconds to play, trimming Limoges's chances to stay alive in the fight for the Top16. Even its coach, Alfred Julbe, acknowledged that it became a big problem that prevented his team from capping a miraculous comeback: "It was difficult for us to play, especially having to deal with things like the free throws, some situations, getting mad on the court, etc. At the end, there was a little open door for the victory, but it was too small."