Short-handed Virtus survived three-point battle

Dec 09, 2021 by Print
Short-handed Virtus survived three-point battle

Virtus Segafredo Bologna did not arrive at its Round 6 game against Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana in its best shape. Three players (Isaia Cordinier, Kevin Hervey and Nico Mannion) joined Ekpe Udoh and Awudu Abass in Virtus's injured list and Alessandro Pajola played hurt at Stozice Arena. Cedevita showed up with two new players, Alen Omic and Yogi Ferrell.

Any questions about how Virtus would perform while shorthanded or how Cedevita would look with two new starters were answered by what turned out to be a spectacular battle, in which both teams scored over 100 points. It came down to the final second, too, in which former Virtus guard Jacob Pullen missed a shot from downtown that would have sent the game to overtime.

When the dust settled, Cedevita and Virtus were close to breaking a 7DAYS EuroCup record. The teams combined for 33 three-point shots; Cedevita buried 16 and Virtus hit 17. Their total was 1 shy of a record that has stood for over a decade; Cedevita Zagreb and Gran Canaria combined for 34 three-pointers (17 apiece) on February 1, 2011. Cedevita prevailed 114-110 in overtime. It tied the record for most three-pointers in a non-overtime game; Gran Canaria and Promitheas Patras also combined for 33 three-pointers on November 4, 2020.

Cedevita's main contributor from downtown was Ferrell, who buried 5 three-point shots on his way to 24 points. He added 7 two-pointers without a miss, 11 assists and 7 fouls drawn for a PIR of 38. Only Jaka Blazic has had a higher PIR wearing the team's jersey with a 41 against JL Bourg en Bresse on January 27, 2021, and 39 against Frutti Extra Bursaspor on November 9, 2020. Before Cedevita Zagreb and Olimpija Ljubljana merged, Ryan Boatright had a PIR of 51 for Cedevita against Valencia Basket on January 4, 2017.

Omic celebrated his 100th game in the competition in style. He hit his first career three-point shot after missing his previous 4 attempts from beyond the arc. Omic also made 7 of 8 two-pointers, had a PIR of 19 and was serenaded with MVP" chants by the Cedevita faithful. Not a bad way to start his second EuroCup stint with the club in which he started his career in the competition.

Three-point shots aide, Virtus needed to play extremely well and managed to do so, with a lot of character. The Italian powerhouse pulled down 15 offensive rebounds and allowed Cedevita only 9. It dished 26 assists - Milos Teodosic had 9 of those - and committed just 10 turnovers. Cedevita shot the ball extremely well (65.5% 2FG, 45.7% 3FG) and didn't make many mistakes (13 turnovers), but it was not enough to win the game. Its team PIR of 110 was the highest ever in the EuroCup in a losing effort.

Its most experienced players stepped up in crunch time to eventually make the difference in the game. Cedevita got within 89-91 with over 4 minutes left but Marco Belinelli buried an off-balance three-pointer, Teodosic hit a jumper and Kyle Weems did even better with an outstanding four-point play for a 92-100 Virtus lead with 2 minutes remaining. Only the lack of free-throw accuracy (2 of 6 in the final 24 seconds) allowed Cedevita to get a final chance to send the game to overtime.

"We rebounded solid, definitely, in the fourth [quarter]. Then we hit some shots. Unfortunately, we didn't hit free throws," Virtus head coach Sergio Scariolo said after the game. "I think we could have managed to get a little bit more relaxed at the very end, but this is a pretty young team and I assume and know that these kinds of things happen and will happen again. But it is a very important win on the road. Every win is important in this high-level EuroCup - on the road even better, even more."

Belinelli led the winners with 21 points. Teodosic added 19, Mam Jaiteh 17, Weems 15 and Ty-Shon Alexander 10 for Virtus. Seven players struck at least once from beyond the arc in an extraordinary game, an instant classic to look back to when the 2021-22 campaign comes to an end.