It became a do-or-die battle to stay alive in 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season Group C the moment Germani Brescia Leonessa beat Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul on Tuesday night. Both Nanterre 92 and Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana took the court at Palais des Sports Maurice Thorez knowing that a loss would be the end of the road, mathematically speaking, for their EuroCup campaign.
The game lived up to the expectations. Nanterre showed great resilience coming back from big double-digit margins not once, but twice, and still found the strength to deliver in crunch time to stay alive in the Top 16 race.
Olimpija started at full speed, hitting 5 three-pointers in as many minutes and finding easy baskets everywhere to take a 13-37 advantage early in the second quarter. Nanterre needed a go-to guy and found one is Isaia Cordinier, who had 15 of his career-high 23 points late in the second quarter to lift his team. Cordinier has averaged 21.5 points and a PIR of 24.5 in two games against Cedevita this season - and 9.0 points and a PIR of 5.8 against all other opponents.
Nanterre kept its momentum going and managed to tie the game at 52-52 behind inspired minutes from Dallas Moore and Devin Oliver. Olimpija showed great character to go on a 0-13 run late in the third quarter and took a 52-65 cushion that put the Slovenian powerhouse on the right path to victory. Nanterre had done it once and did it again, hitting 6 three-pointers in 4 minutes to go on a 20-0 run. Damien Bouquet and Moore each made a three for a 58-65 lead after 30 minutes. Moore hit twice more, then Oliver and Spencer Butterfield joined the fun to give Nanterre a 72-65 advantage.
Olimpija had not said its final word; Codi Miller-McIntyre and Ryan Boatright helped the visitors tie the game again, 75-75. Despite the physical and psychological effort of erasing a double-digit deficit twice during the game, Nanterre showed its best basketball in crunch time. Moore downed his sixth three-pointer and Kenny Chery, who had been battling foul trouble all game long, hit a jumper and a bomb from downtown that put Nanterre in the right direction to win, 82-75. Free throw accuracy did the rest.
Nanterre knocked off Cedevita, but still faces another do-or-die battle against Brescia. "It is exciting, Moore said after the game. "We got two finals left. It is like a final game; we have to rest up and get ready for Brescia next week."
Nanterre hit a club-record 17 three-point shots, but most importantly, it showed the intangibles required to be successful in a do-or-die situation - character, determination, resilience and the rare ability to never give up when circumstances are tough. All of that, and more will be required to beat Brescia next week.