ALBA opens Top 16 with victory over Monaco
ALBA Berlin protected its home court in the opening round of the Top 16 by downing visiting AS Monaco 83-74 in a Group E clash in the German capital on Thursday night. ALBA pulled away to a double-digit margin in the third quarter and then stopped Monaco's attempt to rally in the fourth. Luke Sikma paced the winners with 17 points and 5 assists and Tim Schneider netted 16 points on 4-for-4 three-point shooting. The visitors shot just 2 for 20 from three-point range with both triples coming in the fourth quarter. Former ALBA center Elmedin Kikanovic led Monaco with 26 points and 8 rebounds, while Paul Lacombe collected 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists in defeat.
Landry Nnoko got the hosts going with 6 early points on one end and 2 blocks on the other. Kikanovic and Jarrod Jones each scored twice and Lacombe had a three-point play to put Monaco up 11-14. Schneider's first triple, however, helped ALBA to an 18-15 edge after 10 minutes. Schneider hit his second three in the opening minute of the second before Niels Giffey's jumper made it 25-17. Kikanovic and Lacombe cut into the deficit and Eric Buckner also scored inside for Monaco, but ALBA kept the lead through Giffey and Sikma, with the latter's triple making it 32-26. The teams kept trading close-range baskets and Kikanovic scored 6 more points for the visitors, but ALBA took a 44-38 margin into halftime. ALBA needed a little time in the second half to extend the margin to double digits, with Sikma fighting for a three-point play and knocking down a triple to make it 54-42. Kikanovic strung together 8 points to keep Monaco in range, but Schneider nailed another three-pointer to open the largest margin of the night, 63-50. The hosts took a 65-53 advantage into the final quarter and Yakuba Ouattara hit Monaco's first triple of the night, cutting it to 67-60. Schneider hit a corner triple, but fastbreak baskets from Lacombe and Lazeric Jones got Monaco within 70-66 midway through the fourth. Sikma stopped the bleeding with a reverse layup and Stefan Peno added a fastbreak dunk during an 8-0 run that made it 78-66 and all but wrapped up the win.
Monaco shot 0 for 15 from three-point range through the first three quarters and missed its first 17 attempts until Yakuba Ouattara hit one on his team's 18th attempt with 7:25 to go in the game. Meanwhile, ALBA made 7 of 17 triples for the night.
ALBA had five players in double figures. Apart from Luke Skima and Tim Schneider, it was Martin Hermannsson with 11 points and 6 assists, Landry Nnoko with 11 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks, and Stefan Peno with 10 points.
Stellar Berlin return
Elmedin Kikanovic spent two seasons with ALBA and had a great return with 26 points on 12-of-17 two-point shooting, including making 11 of his first 12 attempts, which held Monaco in range for the majority of the night.
ALBA entered the game averaging 23.9 assists per game, on pace for best-ever in EuroCup history, and then dished 25 assists in this game, improving its average to 24.0 per contest.
Next week in Round 2, Monaco will host Rytas Vilnius in its first ever Top 16 home game, while ALBA will travel to the Serbian capital to face Partizan NIS Belgrade.
Thursday, January 3, 2019