After scoring 90 or more points in its previous four EuroCup games, it would be easy to highlight the excellent offensive performance of Virtus Segafredo Bologna as the main reason for its perfect record this season. But, against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica on Tuesday, Virtus switched to a different approach, making defense its most effective tool in an 87-65 victory at home.
Buducnost started the Top 16 with a convincing 108-80 win over JL Bourg en Bresse, breaking three club records in a true offensive explosion. Those 108 points set a new record, while its index rating of 137 and its 68.4% shooting on three-pointers were also milestones. But, two weeks later, Virtus turned all those big numbers into nothing thanks to an impressive defensive effort.
"I think the defense was really exceptional today, it was our best night especially the first half, and this is a good sign," said Coach Sasa Djordjevic after the game, as his team held Buducnost to just 28 points on 7-of-19 two-point shooting and 1-of-9 on three-pointers in the first two quarters.
A strong defense is what Virtus wants to build on its way to the championship, knowing that offense is something they already have. Involving all players on that mission since the beginning was something Djordjevic was happy about: "Everybody came up strong, focused, and this is something we have been working on," he said.
The result was the lowest-scoring game of the season for Buducnost, which surrendered early after the halftime break and shot 34.3% on two-pointers and 22.7% beyond the arc. Its 7 assists tied a season-low and its 15 turnovers were turned into 19 points for Virtus.
Forward Giampaolo Ricci was among those who took the defensive instructions to heart: "I think the key to the game was our job in defense, every component of the team. The result of this was what we saw o the court. We have to keep working on our defense, keep sharing the ball in offense and stay together."
This superb combination of good offense - Virtus has averaged 92 points per game in the Top 16 - and strong defense makes the team an even more dangerous and fierce contender - and a serious candidate to take the title. Right after grabbing its third win in as many games in the second stage, Djordjevic looked at the future knowing they are a step closer to the next round: "I hope we can just move on from here, but it’s an important win also, it’s a good margin, a good point-difference," he summed up.