LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne improved to 2-0 in the Top 16 with a 93-89 win over ratiopharm Ulm on Tuesday night, but there were many ASVEL faces not all-too-happy after this victory.
"We are happy only because we got really important points," veteran ASVEL point guard Mantas Kalnietis, who dished 7 assists in this one, explained afterward. "But how we played, it was the worst of the season. We were not focused enough, especially defensively, and we made too many crazy decisions."
ASVEL controlled this game from the start, but simply could not shake off the visitors, who arrived without two frontcourt starters, Dwayne Evans and Isaac Fotu. Those two players combine on average for 11.6 rebounds per contest and ASVEL used it that to its advantage, pulling down 18 offensive boards, which was the third most ASVEL ever had in a EuroCup game.
Despite controlling the boards, the hosts just could not break the game open. ASVEL had an 8-point advantage in the first quarter, but allowed Ulm to quickly rally back. The hosts opened a 14-point lead in the second, but Ulm needed 60 seconds to make a 1-8 run and catch up. After ASVEL opened a 16-point lead in the third quarter, Ulm was back within 5 points with 6 minutes to go in the fourth. And despite ASVEL responding and surging to 87-77 with 3:30 left in the game, Ulm was again within a single possession in the final 45 seconds of the contest.
Hearing the coaches talk after the game, it almost felt like the winners lost and the defeated team took home the victory.
"Numerous times ASVEL got a comfortable lead, and numerous times we did not accept it and we fought ourselves back into this game," Ulm's head coach Thorsten Leibenath said. "This is not easy against such a good team, this is not easy when you play on the road and I feel our team deserves credit for that."
ASVEL head coach Zvezda Mitrovic assessed his team's play thusly: "All the tough work we did in rebounding, they punished us with three-pointers, we allowed a lot of points after 50-50 loose balls. We started making some childish mistakes, making turnovers, missing layup, taking quick shots."
ASVEL might not have won any style points on Tuesday night, but it did win another game after its road win at Lokomotiv in Round 1 to move atop Group F. And at the end of the day, that is all that really counts.