Wilbekin sparks Maccabi comeback over Buducnost
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv recovered from an early 10-point deficit to boost its playoff hopes with a 81-76 home victory over Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, which remains waiting for its first road victory. Norris Cole shone early for Buducnost against his former club, scoring 18 points in the first half in a total of 25. But a major offensive improvement after the break allowed Maccabi to come back and improve to 6-11. Scottie Wilbekin in particular came to the fore in the second half, finishing with 16 points. Tarik Black combined 12 points and 7 rebounds, and DeAndre Kane posted 11 points, 5 boards and 3 steals. Buducnost, which drops to 3-14, had 13 points from Earl Clark.
Cole netted the first 6 points, before Kane finally scored Maccabi’s opening basket after nearly three minutes. But Cole scored two more before a different Buducnost finally player registered as Clark drained a triple and made a three-point play for a 12-18 lead after the first quarter. Black pulled Maccabi closer but Cole returned to sink a triple and Clark netted again for 18-25. A three-point play from Michael Roll, an Alex Tyus alley-oop and a Johnny O’Bryant layup pulled the hosts to within one, but Edwin Jackson struck from downtown and Cole made a three-point play to keep Buducnost ahead, 34-37 at half-time. Yovel Zoosman’s triple tied it just after the break but Coty Clarke scored twice to restore the visiting team’s lead. O’Bryant and Clark exchanged triples, and Kendrick Ray also struck from downtown before Angelo Caloiaro tipped in for a 53-53 tie. John DiBartolomeo’s triple provided Maccabi’s first lead of the night to cap a 8-0 run, but 5 straight points from Jackson made it 59-60 after three quarters. Black tipped in at the start of the final period, but Cole responded once more and Goga Bitadze scored from mid-range. Wilbekin and Kane sent Maccabi back in front, and Zoosman again struck from long-range. Two scores by Nemanja Gordic kept Buducnost close, but O’Bryant and Wilbekin both sank triples for a 75-68 edge. Zoosman and Kane stretched the lead further, and although Clarke scored twice to make it a one-possession game, Wilbekin’s free throws iced the game.
Long-range shooting improvement boosts Maccabi
The home team made a very slow start on offense, only scoring 4 of its 18 field goal attempts in the first quarter including 0-of-7 from long-range. Maccabi was 1-of-13 from downtown at the break but then improved dramatically, moving into the lead with 5-of-9 long-range conversions in the third quarter. The final quarter saw the upturn continue, with Maccabi shooting 3-of-6 from beyond the arc to help seal the win.
Maccabi stops Cole…eventually
Norris Cole made his first return to Maccabi after spending last season with the club, and he was the dominant force during the opening half, reaching 18 points by half-time with a devastating series of penetrating drives. Maccabi succeeded in slowing him down in the third quarter, which saw Cole score 5 points, and he was then virtually silenced towards the end, scoring no points in the final nine minutes.
Young star Bitadze continues to shine
Buducnost’s rising star Goga Bitadze continued his stellar start to his EuroLeague career with another influential performance. The 19 year-old big man registered a blocked shot, an offensive rebound and a foul drawn in his first minute on the floor, and continued to dominate the paint with a powerful display which finally yielded 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks before fouling out midway through the final period.
Maccabi has a daunting assignment in Round 18, travelling to face CSKA Moscow on Friday. Buducnost returns to Montenegro to welcome Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul on the same night.
Wednesday, January 9, 2019