Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade celebrated a memorable victory over Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul on Thursday night. However, unlike many big wins for EuroLeague teams, after this game all 12 Zvezda players could smile and take pride in their accomplishments because every one of them made tangible contributions. Yes, the 68-56 victory was a true team effort.
Start with the fact that 11 of the 12 Zvezda men in uniform played at least 10 minutes. The only player who did not was Ognjen Dobric, however, he used his fresh legs for one of the biggest plays of the game. The fact that Coach Tomic trusted the player with the fewest minutes in the game to be on the court in a 2-point game with 5 minutes to go says something about the way he and the players believe in each other. After Mouhammad Faye drained a three-pointer to make it 56-51, Dobric picked off a pass and stormed downcourt for a slam that caused Stark Arena to erupt. Fenerbahce never threatened again.
Only three Zvezda players saw more than 20 minutes of action and they all came up big. Faye, who hit the aforementioned triple, scored 8 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and blocked 2 shots in 25:36 of playing time. Veteran James Gist, who came within 1 of his career-best with 6 offensive rebounds, contributed 11 points and 8 boards in 24:43. And Lorenzo Brown had 13 points and 6 assists in 24:03. Stratos Perperoglou added 11 points off the bench. Derrick Brown produced 8 rebounds in 13:43. Overall, 10 different players scored, 10 took rebounds and 10 committed fouls. That depth allowed Zvezda to outscore Fenerbahce in each of the final three quarters. The hosts outrebounded Fenerbahce 40-30 and got to the foul line more (22-14). And Zvezda's reserves outscored their counterparts 31-22.
Ultimately, the one thing that everyone, including both coaches, agreed on was the Zvezda played harder and played better. "What decided this game? Our defense," Coach Tomic summed up. "When you play against Fenerbahce and they score 56 points in the whole game, this is for sure a big step to winning the game."
"It is obvious Zvezda started playing much better than us tonight," Fenerbahce boss Zeljko Obradovic said. "They fought a lot, had more desire during the game, and they played better than us."
Indeed, from the starting five to the 12th man, every Zvezda player did his job on Thursday and together they made history with the club's second win over Fenerbahce in nine tries.