Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana used a great effort to pick up an impressive first victory of the season in the 7DAYS EuroCup, and recently-acquired big man Jarrod Jones was right in the middle of it all.
Jones shined off the bench with a team-high 18 points while also grabbing 9 rebounds in Olimpija's 84-68 home win over previously unbeaten Herbalife Gran Canaria in Group D. The Spanish side had scored 86 and 94 points in its first two games, but against Olimpija's defense was held to just 39.4% two-point and 30.6% three-point accuracy.
Olimpija was coming from a two-week layoff after its Round 2 home game was not held because all of the team's players were forced to quarantine due to the requirement of the National Institute of Public Health of Slovenia after one player had tested positive for COVID-19. Its unavailability resulted in a 0-20 defeat on top of a narrow 80-76 road loss to open the season at Nanterre 92.
"After this period [of not playing] they really fought defensively. You could see that they had a big desire to play and to show that we need to play basketball," said Olimpija head coach Jurica Golemac, whose team's Group D record is now 1-2. "They really gave everything. All their energy and intensity defensively was great."
The importance of Tuesday's game was clear to the Olimpija players. Over the past three seasons, only two of the 12 teams that started the regular season 0-3 managed to reach the Top 16.
"We knew how important this game was after missing the last round," said Jones, who helped Olimpija out-rebound Gran Canaria 46-33. "Everybody came out with one goal in mind: just to leave everything on the court, no matter what happens. And it turned out good for us."
Jones's strong presence in the paint was something the team missed in its Round 1 loss at Nanterre, when the Slovenian side lost the rebounds battle 46-28. Jones, who averaged 6.3 rebounds for Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul in 2019-20, had only been signed five days before the Nanterre game and did not play in Olimpija's opener.
With Jones in the lineup and his experience helping the team grab its first win, Olimpija fans can still feel good about their team's chances of reaching the Top 16.