Crvena Zvezda shuts down Fenerbahce
A raucous crowd of 16,879 at Stark Arena fueled Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade to a 68-56 victory over Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul on Thursday evening. The Serbian champs played sterling defense and outrebounded their opponents 40-30 for just their second win against Fenerbahce in nine tries. Lorenzo Brown paced the Zvezda attack with 13 points and 6 assists, James Gist posted 11 points and 8 rebounds - including 8 on the offensive end, and Stratos Perperoglou also scored 11 for the victors. Nando De Colo led Fenerbahce with 19 points and Ali Muhammed added 13. Reigning EuroLeague MVP Jan Vesely returned to the lineup after missing much of the preseason and Round 1 through injury.
Zvezda fans had reasons to cheer early as Branko Lazic opened the scoring with a three-pointer and Gist scored twice on the offensive glass. Fenerbahce kept it close and took its first lead, 10-11, on a pull-up three by Muhammed. A triple by De Colo ensured the visitors held a 15-16 edge after 10 minutes. Dejan Davidovac connected on Zvezda's second three of the night 4 minutes into the second quarter to prompt a Fenerbahce timeout at 22-18. Two minutes later, Mouhammad Faye drained a three that made it 27-21 and resulted in another Fenerbahce stoppage. De Colo stepped up for the visitors with all the points in a 2-8 charge to close the gap, but Lorenzo Brown's three-point play helped Zvezda keep a 35-30 halftime advantage. Vesely's first score of the season got Fenerbahce back within 1 early in the second half, but Zvezda kept its composure and a step-back three and a layup, both by Perperoglou, had the hosts cruising at 46-37 midway through the third quarter. Though the Fenerbahce guards kept their team alive, Michael Ojo free throws lifted Zvezda to 51-43 through three quarters. After carrying the scoring burden for much of the game, De Colo turned provider by setting up Vesely for an Alley-oop lam and Muhammed for a triple to bring the visitors within 53-51 with 5 minutes to play. Faye answered with a three-pointer before Ognjen Dobric stormed in for a steal and slam that got the arena rocking again. Gist split free throws with less than 2 minutes remaining to give Zvezda its first double-digit lead, 61-51, and a Lorenzo Brown triple in the final minute put the game on ice.
Fenerbahce fought its way from 9 down to 53-51 with Nando De Colo feeding Jan Vesely for an alley-oop slam and Ali Muhammed knocking down a three-pointer. Zvezda called a timeout to regroup and on the ensuing play, Mouhammad Faye answered from downtown. However, the play that changed the game was Ognjen Dobric’s steal and slam. Stark Arena erupted with the boisterous reactions and Zvezda went on a 15-3 march that wrapped up the victory.
The key to Zvezda's victory was teamwork. All 12 Zvezda players played at least 8 minutes (and 11 played at least a quarter of the game). Ten different players scored, 10 took rebounds and 10 committed fouls. Eight players committed turnovers and seven dished assists. Rarely does a team spread the work as well as Coach Milan Tomic’s crew did in this game and as a result, the collected an impressive scalp.
Jan Vesely played his first game of the season, but he was unable to match his normal lofty standards. The reigning EuroLeague MVP did not score at all in the first half and did not take his first rebound until the fourth quarter. He finished with 6 points and 2 rebounds in 25 minutes. Perhaps alarming for Fenerbahce fans is that after making a career-best 78.7 percent of his free throws last season, Vesely started this season by missing his first 4 foul shots.
Fenerbahce slumped to its lowest scoring output in a road game in over three years. The last time it was held to fewer points was in March 2016 when it edged Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 52-55. Fenerbahce made only 10 of 29 two-point shots in the game, which was the lowest percentage (34.48) since Coach Zeljko Obradovic arrived in 2013. The team's performance index rating of 46 was the third-lowest for the team of the Obradovic era.
Next week's games
Crvena Zvezda will look to continue its momentum next week when it visits Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv on Thursday evening. That same day, Fenerbahce will seek its first win of the campaign in its home opener against KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Thursday, October 10, 2019