In the opening minutes of Tuesday night's game in Venice, Frutti Extra Bursaspor scorer Allerik Freeman hobbled off the floor with an ankle injury. He would return by the end of the quarter and finish the game with 15 points. Later Andrew Andrews was helped off with an injury. He too got back in the game at the end. The fighting spirit those two showed to stay in the game was exactly what Bursaspor needed to erase a 13-point deficit on the road for its first win of the season, 62-70, over Umana Reyer Venice.
The injuries the two suffered were not mild nor were the reactions they inspired in their teammates, as Coach Dushan Alimpijevic explained after the game: "Allerik Freeman twisted his ankle and Andrew hurt his shoulder but they wanted to continue with this game and I'm not sure for example that they will play the next round in Turkey because they're not small injuries. That was the key, they wanted to win this game."
So the two did what they could, which also mean at times asking others to do more, such as Derek Needham. The point guard, usually the man who distributes the ball to his teammates, took 17 shots and scored a game-high 18 points.
"One of our scorers was actually hurting and he just told me he needed me to pick it up a little bit," Needham said later referring to Freeman. "They trusted me because I put the work in so I just tried to make shots."
Freeman and Needham played the entirety of the fourth quarter as did Metin Turen. Andrews played 8:33 of the fourth. With that quartet leading the way, Bursaspor blasted Reyer 5-24 down the stretch. Needham hit a pair of threes and had 8 points in the fourth quarter, Freeman contributed 5 points down the stretch and Turen 4.
In truth, the offense was secondary to the winning effort. Bursaspor made the difference with its second-half defense.
"They really deserve to win this game for one simple reason; they stepped up the tone on defense in the third and fourth quarters,” Reyer coach Walter De Raffaele said after the game. "They played with a lot of intensity on defense and we were not able to answer. That made the total difference with our offense."
Reyer made just 1 of 10 shots in the fourth quarter. Eight of those were three-pointers as the home team settled rather than attacking the Bursaspor defense. Reyer also committed 7 turnovers in the fourth quarter and 21 in the game.
“I think the best thing that we are all proud of is that we were down  at one point and to come back on the road, that just shows a lot of resolve and a lot of mental toughness and togetherness," Freeman said. "That's what we're most proud of about this game."
And with good reason.