Fenerbahce’s big man was forced into submission by flawless teamwork from the Italian hosts.
Buzzing Virtus quartet subdued gentle giant Johnathan Motley
Virtus Segafredo Bologna relied on a wide range of weapons to carve out an 87-79 home win over Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in Round 10 of the 2023-24 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season on Thursday night. The Italian side had more individuals who stepped up to the plate, cancelling out a valiant solo effort from the visiting team’s towering center Johnathan Motley.
The physically dominant yet good-natured big man racked up 25 points and 8 boards for Fenerbahce, but the supporting cast faltered, especially the backcourt as the visitors shot a miserable 5-of-24 from downtown. At the other end, Toko Shengelia led the charge with 15 points, 8 boards and 5 assists, doing damage all over the court.
Fenerbahce also wasn’t helped by the ejection of its head coach Dimitris Itoudis, who was given his marching orders by the officials after picking up a double technical foul for loud protests over what he perceived to be an offensive foul by Shengelia in the third quarter.
Virtus on the rise, Fenerbahce sliding
But Fenerbahce can have few complaints over the manner in which the Georgian forward marshalled Virtus to its fifth successive home win, with the outcome also condemning Fenerbahce to its fourth straight loss in Europe’s premier club basketball competition.
“As the coach [Luca Banchi] says, it’s about the personality and the mentality we play with,” Shengelia said in a flash courtside interview after the game.
“It’s our identity to fight in every game and I am really proud of my team. We knew we had to be smart defensively and at the same time we created options for ourselves on offense.”
A team effort from Virtus
Daniel Hackett chipped in with 14 points and 6 assists for Virtus, Ognjen Dobric added 11 points and Devontae Cacok also personified the home team’s roster depth as he posted 10 points and 7 rebounds.
“It was an incredible effort and we stepped up the defense very impressively in the second half,” commented Coach Banchi.
“We limited their offensive efficiency to a great extent and we also shared the ball with a lot of humility on offense. We were able to control the rhythm and find the best solutions. It’s difficult to beat Virtus Bologna here.”
Hackett added: “We had a good mindset against a team which is on paper one of the favorites to reach the Final Four. We played great team basketball and stayed together through some tough stretches. Motley was a force inside, but we adjusted and played as a team.”
Calathes wrote his name further into the history books
The one bright spot for Fenerbahce was that veteran playmaker Nick Calathes, one of three players who returned to action from injuries, enjoyed a rare milestone. The 34-year-old scored 8 points to surpass the 3,000-point mark, in addition to entering the top 10 in all-time PIR, but those accomplishments will surely be scant consolation after Fenerbahe’s skid continued.
In Round 11, high-flying Virtus visits Bayern Munich while under-pressure Fenerbahce hosts reigning champ Real Madrid, still the only unbeaten team in the competition with a 9-0 record after Thursday’s comprehensive 99-75 home drubbing of ALBA Berlin.