Coach Danny Franco's men flashed their offensive credentials to outlast Joventut.
Hapoel avenged quarterfinal loss in first game at new 'home' in Belgrade
After playing its last four BKT EuroCup games away from home, Hapoel Shlomo Tel Aviv hosted Joventut Badalona on Wednesday at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall – its temporary home due to security concerns amid the ongoing armed conflict in Israel. In front of a few Hapoel fans, the team sought to bounce back after losing its last two duels against Paris Basketball and Prometey Slobozhanske and managed to do so by beating the Spanish side 103-99. Head coach Danny Franco’s men had some extra motivation ahead of Wednesday’s duel, as Joventut beat them 82-74 in Badalona in last season’s EuroCup Quarterfinals.
That was the two teams’ only meeting in the competition ahead of the Round 8 game in Belgrade. Their second clash was destined to be an offensive showdown that featured a Hapoel side that had the best PIR (117.5), finest attack (97.0 ppg.) and most assists (24.5 apg.) in the competition heading into Wednesday’s encounter. This was Hapoel’s third three-digit scoring affair in 2023-24 and for yet another game, its shooting percentages were eye-catching.
Hapoel was firing on all cylinders
Hapoel came into the game as the team with the best three-point (44.8%) and third-best two-point (58.5%) figures in the competition. Against Joventut, it recorded a whopping 26-for-36 shooting (72.2%) from inside the arc and 9-for-17 (52.9%) on triples. Most importantly, it withstood Joventut’s comeback attempt at the end of the fourth quarter to clinch an important win. The visitors tied the game at 95-95 with 1:28 remaining despite trailing for most of the duel. Yet, Hapoel made some crucial baskets to seal the win.
“First of all, I’m happy that we stuck together when Joventut came back,” Franco said in the post-game interview. “We had an issue of runs against us in the last couple of games. I’m happy for the win and the guys that made an effort and stuck together.”
On a night where Hapoel’s starters scored 91 of their team’s 103 points, Xavier Munford had a season-high in points (31) and a career-best in PIR (35), while Jaylen Hoard scored 18, with J’Covan Brown and Kyle Alexander recording 17 each.
“It was a very important win for us coming after two tough weeks on the road,” Franco said at the post-game press conference. “This game was a mental game of guys playing out on the floor, trying to fight and not giving up against a good Joventut team. I’ll take this win and the stubbornness of the guys. Even when we made mistakes, we supported each other.”
What makes their achievement even more important is that the guests didn’t give up at any point and out-assisted 22-26 the league’s highest assist-contributors.
Joventut saw four of its players producing outstanding performances and combined to score 82 of their team’s 99 points. Andres Feliz led his team with 24 points, Andrew Andrews netted 23, Deshaun Thomas 20 and Tyler Cook added 15 on his EuroCup debut.
Promising debut for Cook
Cook joined the Spanish side to strengthen its frontcourt and he demonstrated from the off in his first game that he has what it takes to fill in for an injured Ante Tomic. The former NBAer made 5-of-9 two-pointers and 5-of-6 free throws. He also downed 5 rebounds and dished 3 assists in 29:26 on the floor. Joventut matched its all-time high of 16 triples made by going 16-for-30 (53.3%) from downtown and outrebounded the hosts 22-29, but didn’t manage to contain Hapoel’s stars.
The Spanish side will now look to bounce back and snap its three-game losing streak next Wednesday when it hosts Prometey Slobozhanske at Palau Olimpic De Badalona. Hapoel's upcoming game against Besiktas Emlakjet Istanbul is a first-class opportunity to build some momentum and get a winning streak going.