By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Cory Higgins scored 11 out of his season-high 17 points in the last five minutes as Barcelona beat Baskonia 96 – 84 after a very close battle for the larger part of the game. Thanks to this win, Barca completed the double-game week with two out of two to improve to 7 – 3 overall.
With the score 81 – 79 and 5:08 to play, Higgins drained three consecutive triples for a 9 – 1 run thanks to which Barca went up by double figures for the first time in the match. The Blaugrana had also raised the level of their intensity on defense, keeping Baskonia without a basket for six out of the last eight minutes. In the meantime, Jan Vesely (a season-high 18 points) helped secure the win with four points of his own down the stretch.
“We finally got some stops,” Higgins said. “They’re a great offensive team, so we knew that if we could string some stops together, we’d have a good chance. We got that done in the fourth quarter. We have great support here. Our fans always show up for us, so we want to get as many wins here as possible.”
After scoring three in each of the previous two games, Markus Howard bounced back to form with 25 points to lead Baskonia’s offense. Pierria Henry had 13 points plus six assists and Matt Costello also scored 13 for the Basque side that is now 5-5.
“I thought we played really good defense in the fourth quarter,” Jasikevicius commented. “We dug a little bit deeper and got some stops. Every coach would like to win the game from the defensive perspective. I thought that, offensively, we continued finding good looks, found Cory [Higgins] in the fourth, and you know, read the situations pretty good. And defensively, it was obviously very bad for a long period of time, but not many teams are stopping this Baskonia. I think it’s important to dig a little bit deeper. Some players came out and gave big efforts in the second half, found ways to get some stops and win the game.”
The whole affair was a shootout where both teams delivered very productive performances and both coaches Sarunas Jasikevicius and Joan Penarroya had several complaints regarding their teams’ defense. Barcelona tried to pull away with a 10 – 3 run for the 75 – 68 in the third quarter and Baskonia responded to tie the match at 76 thanks to Howard.
“I think in the second half, we played much better defensively than we played in the first half,” Vesely said. “We knew they were a high-scoring team. They always shoot a lot of threes. We tried to stop that, and I think we did a pretty good job. I tried to help the team as much as I can, whatever lineup or strategy the team needs me for. Today was a good day. I tried to use the time to help my team the best way I can.”
Howard also scored for the 78 – 78 but then Barcelona held Baskonia to just two points via free throws in the next six minutes. In the meantime, Higgins’ shooting gave the hosts the necessary edge to get the victory.
Barca big man Oscar da Silva had 11 points for a EuroLeague season best of his own.
“We had problems in the pick-and-roll situations,” Penarroya said. “We competed well for 36 minutes, but in the last few minutes, after the three-pointer in the last 2 seconds of one possession, then a second one in a row, didn’t let us compete for the full 40 minutes.”