Tofas overcame injuries for epic win

Jan 16, 2020 by Print
Tofas overcame injuries for epic win

It was one of the most shocking results in recent 7DAYS EuroCup history. MoraBanc Andorra arrived at this game with a fabulous 13-2 home record in the last two EuroCup season, having only lost in Game 2 of last season's semifinals against ALBA Berlin and against Promitheas Patras this season. The long trip was not an excuse this time, as Tofas Bursa had bigger problems in Top 16 Round 2.

Illness and injuries forced Tofas to go to Andorra with a very weakened version of the team that beat Unicaja Malaga last week. First of all, head coach Orhun Ene was sick, so his assistant Yalcin Kucokozkan, inexperienced at this level, had to run the team. Moreover, three of its best players, Sammy Mejia, DJ White and Matt Lojeski, could not make it with their team to Andorra. That's the second, third and fifth-best scorers on the team, combining for 37.7 points.

As a result, Tofas only used eight players in Andorra. The three other players registered - Bora Satir, Omer Yavas and Ata Atsuren - were born in 2001 or 2002 and have combined for 5 seconds of EuroCup action this season. A new rotation had to take place. Batin Tuna, born in 2003, had seen 19 seconds of action so far this season and played over 8 minutes on this night. Muhaymin Mustafa, who is averaging 17 minutes in this EuroCup campaign, played over 34 and scored 10 points.

One player who truly made a difference was Berkan Durmaz, who averaged 3.7 points in 10 EuroCup games until this game. Tofas's circumstances left him a lot of playing time and he made the most of it, finishing the game with a career-high 17 points on 6-of-8 two-point shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and 3 fouls drawn for a PIR of 23, a new personal best. With Tofas down 63-59, Durmaz stepped up with consecutive layups, igniting a closing 0-10 run that allowed Tofas to seal the upset.

The defense was the other key, as Andorra was held scoreless in the final 4 minutes of the game, while it missed 4 shots and 2 free throws and committed 3 turnovers. Its two healthy foreigners rose to the challenge: Tarik Phillip finished the game with 17 points and 4 assists and helped limit opposing scoring guard Clevin Hannah to a season-low 2 points. Devin Williams narrowly missed a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds. He scored the final 4 points of the game - a put-back jumper to beat the shot clock after an airball and a pair of free throws that confirmed Tofas's victory.

"First of all, we played smart for 40 minutes. We had sick players and injuries, but it didn't matter: we had heart and put it on the court. We stuck to the game plan, especially on defense. We got rebounds and knew they were shooters, so we got the rebounds and then we got the win," Durmaz said after the game. "This win is for our coach and for the injured and sick players. Road games are always hard in the EuroCup, so this is a huge win for us. Now we have to win all the home games, this is important. We are so happy right now, but we have to keep building up."

Coach Kucokozkan was very honest after the game: "I didn't expect to win this game. It was just thinking about the difference, if it was big or not, but I am very happy," he said. "I thank all of my players, they put their heart on the court and got this success. We were lucky, but played very well. They wanted this win more than anyone, and that is why we got the win."