Besiktas edge Szolnoki in physical battle

Favourites Besiktas are through to the Eurochallenge final after defeating hosts Szolnoki Olaj 64-60.

This wasn’t a classic by any means but the key stat was a rebounding score of 50-39 in Besiktas’ favour, that included 22 offensive boards as Szolnoki had no answer their opponents’ bigs, in particular Great Britain player Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who got a 13 point, 13 rebound double-double.

Besiktas were led by Pops’ frontcourt partner Zorac Erceg, he hit 17 points. The Hungarian side, who finish in their highest ever placing in a European competition were fronted by Hristo Nikolov’s 13 points. Marton Bader got a 11 point, 14 rebound double-double in vain.

Szolnoki made a bright start to the contest, roared on by their home following. They controlled the opening few minutes, not allowing Besiktas any space and deservedly led 17-13 after one.

Besiktas were scoring scrappy buckets, but they all counted. Mensah-Bonsu, who had a slow opening period began to get going with an open dunk and a three-point play mid-way through the second, which brought Besiktas to within one (24-23), but the Eurochallenge hosts came back to keep the lead intact, as they maintained the single-digit advantage for a few minutes.

But the Great Britain international again had other ideas. Mensah-Bonsu ended the second with nine points and 11 in the half as the Turks enjoyed a 33-30 lead at the 15-minute interval.

The Hungarians were giving away easy points off turnovers, and in that first half, Besiktas hit seven easy points to Szolnoki’s zero. No doubt the Turks finished the half the stronger of the two sides. Besiktas had their troubles as well. David Hawkins struggled from the field, shooting just 21 percent in the first two quarters.

The third quarter followed in the footsteps of the first half, it was scrappy and physical under the basket. Mensah-Bonsu reached his double-double figure in the early stages of the third as Besiktas increased their lead to 37-33, but they were missing open jump shots, as were their counterparts from Szolnoki. A three from Horvath though trimmed the deficit to 37-36.

A bucket from Mensah-Bonsu again increased the lead out to three though.

Despite all of the pressure the hosts put on, Besiktas withstood the pressure and earned their victory thanks to free throws from Carlos Arroyo.