Budivelnik Kiev put their country’s unrest to one side and focused on the task at hand as they overcame Nanterre 86-82 in Game 1 of the Eurocup Eigthfinals in Kaunas, Lithuania.
With Kiev being at a slight disadvantage playing their home ties away from the Ukraine, the French side are still slight favourites to advance, but the Ukrainian side can take heart in this first leg victory and move on to the second meeting in France next week.
From Nanterre’s point of view, they will be happy with this away leg result as they have a slim deficit to claw back, when it looked like they would lose the game by double digits in stages.
“It was hard game for us, as we expect it to be. I am very appreciative of Kaunas for this support. It was amazing,” said a grateful Kiev coach Ainars Bagatskis. “Thanks to Zalgiris and all the staff of Zalgirio Arena for this hospitality in such hard times for us. It means a lot for our club and all Ukraine, in this case.
“Nanterre didn’t surprise us; they played very aggressive and took many three-pointers, as usual. Today they attempted 33, and we prepared for it. Anyway, despite our preparation, they still scored enough important shots, and in the one moment, they grabbed the advantage.
“Fortunately, we played quite good in the crucial minutes and won this game. I don’t want to think about difference – it might have been bigger or lesser, but in any case, it was just the first half of our fight. We expect the same fight in France and we will try to win again.”
Nanterre though nearly dug a big hole for themselves by comfortably allowing Budivielnik to enjoy numerous double digits leads. At 64-50, Nanterre started to creep back thanks to fellow Ukrainian international Sergii Gladyr. The lead then shrunk to 76-74 late in the fourth before Kiev finished with a 10-3 burst to deal a win.
Durjus Lavrinovic enjoyed his homecoming in Lithuania by leading the winners with 28 points and 9 rebounds. Blake Ahern added 14. Nanterre were paced by Dashaun Thomas’ 21 points.
The second game of the night saw Besiktas comfortably beat Nizhny Novgorod 88-71 in Istanbul leaving them with a 17-point cushion going to the second leg in Russia.
Besiktas’ defence was key, especially in the first quarter as they held the Russians to just 6 points, while the hosts scored 18 of their own. The tide then went to Novgorod’s favour as they raced to a 47-40 lead early in the third quarter. But the Turkish side hit back and an 8-0 run rocked the visitors as Besiktas grabbed the advantage.
Chris Lofton, who inspired that surge in the fourth, hit 6 triples, en route to a game-high 28 points.
“We had a solid start, then Nizhny Novgorod managed to come back and made the game tough for us,” Lofton said afterwards. “In the second half we played better defence and with a great shooting percentage, we got the win.”
Taylor Rochestie led the Russian side with 22 points.