LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne has gone through a real rollercoaster ride in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague this season. As it turns out, most of the lows came while Norris Cole was fighting to stay in the lineup. But the highs are pretty high at the moment - thanks in large part to the heroics of the veteran playmaking ace.
On Friday night at Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, ASVEL put together a strong team effort and opened a 15-point lead, but saw the advantage evaporate and the home team take the lead in the fourth quarter. But the final frame is when Cole shines brightest. The 32-year-old collected 15 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth, including two free throws with 5.0 seconds left to secure the 78-81 road victory.
"It’s my job as a leader to go out there and be aggressive and set the tone and finish the game. Tonight we finished the game as a team," said Cole, who carried the team to its third straight victory and fourth in the last five games for a 9-14 record.
ASVEL struggled early in the season with the two-time NBA champion out for a few games and the team collecting a 2-8 record. Since then, though, the team is 7-6 with the recent run being the season highlight so far.
"The whole team together has been playing really well the past five games. It’s well deserved," ASVEL coach TJ Parker said.
Cole certainly showed in the fourth quarter that there is still plenty of clutchness left in his game. First he duelled with Ognjen Dobric scoring at either end as the lead went back and forth. Then later in the quarter, Cole and Corey Walden matched one big shot after the next with six lead changes coming from those two in the final 3:25 minutes.
Finally, with his team clinging to a 78-79 lead, Cole also showed he does more than just score as he put up some tough defense against Jordan Loyd, who missed a jumper with 35 seconds left and then watched the smaller Cole corral the defensive rebound. Cole would miss his three-pointer at the other end but in true team fashion, William Howard grabbed a huge offensive rebound with 12 seconds to play. Cole would get the ball back and be fouled with 5.0 seconds remaining. He calmly buried both free throws and then the victory was sealed when Loyd missed two three-point attempts in the waning seconds.
And ASVEL’s rollercoaster ride continued to its highest point yet.