Zvezda powers past Limoges
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade made a winning start to the Top 16 by withstanding a spirited comeback from CSP Limoges to gain an 83-71 victory at a noisy Aleksandar Nikolic Hall in the capital of Serbia. Zvezda raced into a double-digit lead before the end of the first quarter and led the rest of the way, although Limoges kept on fighting and briefly trailed by just 2 points in both the third and fourth quarters. The Serbian champion was paced by 13 points and 4 assists from Billy Baron, while Filip Covic scored all 12 of his points in the final quarter to help seal the deal. Maik Zirbes and Borisa Simanic both scored 11 and Stratos Perperoglou added 10. Dwight Hardy led all scorers by netting 20 points for Limoges, while William Howard and Axel Bouteille added 11 in defeat.
Baron, Zirbes and Bouteille all scored twice as both teams made smooth starts on offense before Joe Ragland netted a couple of driving layups, a triple and a pair of free throws to give Zvezda a 17-11 edge. Hardy tried to keep his team in touch with 9 first-quarter points, but Baron and Zirbes scored again for a 25-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. Perperoglou netted a triple to start the second and Simanic extended the lead to 31-19 from close range. Howard answered from long range, but Simanic and Michael Ojo scored and Baron returned from the bench with a catch-and-shoot jumper as Limoges continued to struggle on offense. Bouteille and Hardy struck to fix the halftime score at 40-32. Howard and Isaiah Miles connected early in the second half as Limoges fought back to a 2-point gap, but Ojo and Simanic both scored twice to keep their team in front. A three-point play from Marko Keselj helped make it 58-53 at the end of the third, despite 4 quick points from Samardo Samuels. Jonathan Rousselle scored twice at the start of the final quarter to make it again a 2-point game, but Covic struck from deep, Zirbes from close-range and Keselj from downtown for a 68-58 edge. A three-point play and a triple from Covic retained a comfortable gap and Perperoglou's long-range strike dispelled any lingering doubts despite another pair of deep strikes from Hardy.
First-quarter offense sets Zvezda on the right path
Zvezda set the right tone by making a superb start on offense, racking up 25 points in the first quarter to establish a lead that Limoges was never able to overcome. During that highly-efficient opening stanza, the home side converted 8 of 10 attempts from two-point territory, made 2 of 5 from three-point range and 3 of 4 free throws, while dishing 7 assists and committing only 1 turnover.
On-the-rise Simanic continues to shine
The game saw another step forward from rising Zvezda star Borisa Simanic, who showcased an impressive array of talents by playing a key role in his team's victory. The 20-year-old finished the regular season with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals against Galatasaray and he was in a similar livewire mode on this occasion by doing a bit of everything, registering 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 blocked shots.
Hardy strong in defeat for Limoges
One Limoges player who did not deserve to lose was Dwight Hardy, the game's leading scorer with 20 points, including 4-of-6 three-pointers. He also made 3 of 4 from two-point range and dished 2 assists, spending nearly 32 minutes on the floor – more than any other player.
Limoges will play its first home game of the Top 16 with next week's visit of Valencia Basket and Zvezda will seek a second straight win with a tough trip to Unicaja Malaga.
Wednesday, January 2, 2019