Virtus Segafredo Bologna is buzzing along in the Top 16 like many might have expected, considering that it was undefeated in the regular season. Regular Season MVP Milos Teodosic continues to play at an elite level and the team's newest edition, Marco Belinelli has made a huge splash in his return to European basketball and has scored the second-most points so far in the Top 16.
The only player with more than Belinelli's 22 points per game is Virtus big man Vince Hunter, who is playing the best basketball of his career. The 26-year-old Hunter, who has not started a game all season, upped his EuroCup career-high in scoring for the second week in a row on Wednesday to lead Virtus to an 87-99 road win at JL Bourg en Bresse.
Hunter dominated with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting plus 11 rebounds. He set career-bests in both scoring and rebounds while collecting his first double-double in the competition. Hunter's PIR of 27 was second only to the 29 he posted in Round 1 of the Top 16. He did it all, from getting tip-ins on the offensive glass, partnering with Teodosic on the pick-and-roll game, running for buckets in transition, throwing down a rim-rocking slam and even burying his first three-pointer of the season.
The big man's stellar play is a product of many things. On one hand, he was long touted as a rising star. After all, he debuted in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with Panathinaikos Athens when he was just 21 years old. Of course, Hunter is also benefitting from all the attention opposing defenses must pay to Belinelli and Teodosic's scoring, as well as the slick passing of the latter and Stefan Markovic.
Hunter was quick to share the credit for his big numbers recently when he said: "My teammates have been looking for me. I've been playing hard and just trying to do the little things. My teammates have been finding me a lot, so kudos to them."
Whether Hunter can continue to post such lofty numbers remains to be seen. However, what is shaping up so far is that the addition of Belinelli has changed the makeup of an already strong attack and Hunter appears to have found the way to take the most advantage.
Will the team's opponent in Rounds 3 and 4, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, have an answer for Hunter? And can any team slow Hunter down without getting burned by Belinelli and Teodosic? These are questions to follow in the coming weeks as Virtus looks to cement its status as a leading contender to capture the 2021 EuroCup crown.