Things did not look good for Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul early in its Round 7 game against Khimki Moscow Region on Friday night. Nando De Colo collected a steal and drove to the basket to get his first basket of the game. But it turned out to be his last one, too, as he left the game with an injury and was taken back to the locker room. All of a sudden, Fenerbahce was facing a dangerous team without its main scorer De Colo (14.8 ppg.), and the game plan that head coach Igor Kokoskov prepared had to be changed, especially on offense.
"We all know how much Nando means to our team and to the squad," Kokoskov said right after the game. "Missing Nando, especially in the beginning of the game, wasn't easy. Good teams find the way to win the game and I think we played well enough to deserve to win."
To replace De Colo’s scoring punch, Fenerbahce needed answers from its perimeter players and they definitely responded, with DyShawn Pierre and Jarell Eddie in particular there when their team needed them. Pierre had the first double-digit game in his short EuroLeague career, finishing with 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 fouls drawn for a PIR of 18. He also provided the biggest highlight of the game, a huge dunk over Janis Timma coming off the baseline.
"We just did a good job. My mentality was just taking what was open and making sure that I stayed aggressive and physical," Pierre said. "Just being ready, that was about it."
Eddie stepped up in crunch time when Khimki had managed to get within 72-70 with 3 minutes left. Edgaras Ulanovas hit a critical shot and that's when Eddie took over by doing what he does best - pull the trigger from downtown. He buried one from beyond the arc to make it a seven-point game, 77-70. Fenerbahce got a defensive stop and Eddie buried another three-pointer, when his body language told you he knew it was going in right after he took the shot. Eddie finished by burying 4-of-6 three-point shots and has hit 17-of-29 from beyond the arc this season, ranking third overall in the EuroLeague (58.6%).
"I think it was a team effort, everybody who played tonight contributed. I think everybody played with heart, with effort, with energy, and they understood that after losing Nando we had to, all of us, give a little more," Kokoskov said in the press conference room. "So it was not just a regular night and I think that all of us gave that little more to put us in the situation to win this game."
In addition to Pierre and Eddie, Lorenzo Brown matched his career-high in steals (4) and his season-high in assists (8) to go with 11 points, while Ahmet Duverioglu had 11 points, Ali Muhammed added 10 and Jan Vesely pulled down 11 rebounds. Despite being outrebounded by 33-41 and only getting 4 offensive boards, Fenerbahce took excellent care of the ball, getting 21 assists and just 12 turnovers.
It was definition of a team win. When De Colo went down, Fenerbahce adjusted quickly and found ways to succeed, eventually scoring its highest number of points, 83, so far this season.