Through its first three games this season, Boulogne Metropolitans 92 allowed an average of 88.3 points per game. On Tuesday, it turned over a new leaf with an excellent defensive effort to notch its second consecutive victory, 78-65, over Mornar Bar.
Unicaja scored 96 against Metropolitans in Round 1, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica had 89 in Round 2 and ratiopharm Ulm 80 in Round 3. Who could have seen this coming?
At Metropolitans, it was what they were working on and it showed. Its 15 steals were the second-most in club history and its 6 blocks were tied for the third-most. Neal Sako started at center in his EuroCup debut and was effective in shutting down the paint early before Vitalis Chikoko replaced him and posted his best game of the season with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks off the bench.
"We haven't been playing good defense in the first three games," Chikoko admitted afterward. "Today we wanted to get better and everybody was working hard on defense. I think that's why we won the game."
Coach Jure Zdovc missed the game due to illness, but his assistant, Sacha Giffa, was an outstanding defender in his own right as a player in the EuroLeague over a decade ago and he agreed with Chikoko's sentiments.
"I think we have our best defense right now. 65 points [allowed] is great. That's why we won, our good work on defense," Giffa summed up. "We told them to bring intensity, we told them to pressure them to get them tired."
David Michineau and Brandon Brown contributed 3 steals each and Maxime Roos, Tomer Ginat and Chikoko swiped 2 balls apiece. That excellent defense led to easy offense too as Metroploutans amassed 30 points off of Mornar Bar's 20 turnovers.
The test for the French squad will be to make Tuesday night's defensive effort the rule and not the exception starting in Round 5 when they visit Germani Brescia in Italy. However, after their showing against Mornar, the rest of Group B now knows what the Metropolitans defense is capable of and will be ready to attack it going forward.