By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
So, many things were written about Valencia‘s winning records. Here in Eurohoops, we dedicated many articles about the Bats that have been impressing Europe since the beginning of the season. But tonight, one team from France didn’t only stole the spotlight attention from them, but managed to make headlines all over the continent. The reason? This team forced Valencia into its first defeat after 28 (!) consecutive wins.
“How did Limoges do that?”, you must be wondering. Well to be honest, it usually takes two to tango for a major surprise to happen. Both the underdog and the favorite should play their part. Yet for tonight’s game, the vast majority of the credit belongs to the French band of brothers, led by Dusko Vujosevic.
The Limougeauds, played an impeccable game on both end of court, showing elements that we have never seen in the game this season. Which are those? Well first of all, a standard constructed plan and great dozes of discipline, especially on defense. The well read French team cut Valencia’s offensive movement by applying a form of “force majeure” on the hosts’ guards. Antoine Diot and Guillem Vives had’t only lost the look to the basket for themselves, but could not connect with their teammates either. The main play makers of Valencia combined for only 2 assists.
Many will comment on the great shooting that Limoges had in the game. 60% from downtown is a number that might seem extraordinary, considering the fact that it comes from a team that was playing on the road. Yes, this was one of these nights that don’t really repeat, but here’s a certain element that played its own part on the rain of 3s that Limoges poured in “La Fonteta”: Confidence. They shot the ball without the pressure of “oh Mon Dieu! It must get in or else…” and with no fear at all. It was obvious from the moment each shooter started to make his attempt, to the second he released the ball from his hands. And when players like the amazing Nobel Boungou-Colo caught “fire”, noone could take it out. It is a no brainer that good psychology will pump up the rhythm of the team, especially when it comes to long range shots.
One quite visible thing was also the fact that Dusko Vujosevic did not only bring an increased level of tactical approach, ready to be transmited to his players, but also provided a certain aura of certainty to them. With negativity shrouding the team, even in “Beaublanc”, due to many bad results, both in France and Europe, the Limougeauds didn’t only need a massive change to the way they approached basketball, but also something to seriously lift their spirits ups. And don’t give me the “they are professionals, they should do their job”. They are humans, as well, in case you forget.
Bo McCalebb, for example, probably drew a wide smile on his face when he learned that Dule will come. In 2009-2010, their cooperation was one of the main reasons behind Partizan’s road to the Euroleague Final Four. The Serbian who actually presented Bo’s skills to the world of European basketball might rejuvenate him now. The American point guard had 10 points (with perfect shooting) and 6 assists against Valencia in a quite composed and balanced game.
Now on the other hand, there’s Valencia. Nothing reminded us the team that we amazed during its 28-0 winning streak. The squad that refused to lose, even when the other team putting an unsolved equation in front of them (like Bilbao in Liga Endesa, in a match that was decided to overtime), seemed panicked in its comeback attempts. Lots of wrong choices, nervousness, and rushed shooting.
Some might argue that Valencia underestimated Limoges, or that the Spaniards’ 28-0 made them full of saturated fat and reduced their hunger. It is true that the efforts of coach Martinez’s players were not as dedicated as usual. But, as we said above, Limoges played a big part in this.
And make no mistake. This night belongs to Limoges. This result might even cure the “disease” that was spreading in the seats of “Beaublanc”. Perhaps the next time that Limoges loses a game in its home court, we won’t hear any boo-ing, like in the match vs Oldenburg, but applause by the people that will think “These are the guys who made the unbelievable happen”.