Mario Hezonja enjoys career night in Monaco

2023-02-03T21:08:53+00:00 2023-02-03T21:41:33+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

03/Feb/23 21:08

Exchanging blows and slim leads in an exciting contest, Real Madrid edges out AS Monaco behind brilliant Mario Hezonja

By Eurohoops Team/

Determined to stay on top of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, Real Madrid earned a 95-91 win against AS Monaco in the sold-out Salle Gaston Medecin Friday.

Mario Hezonja tallied 30 points, a new individual high in EuroLeague. The Croatian forward tucked in six three-pointers, including a dagger for a five-point lead with 1:55 left in the back-and-forth Regular Season Round 23 affair. Six rebounds and six assists further built a game-high PIR of 34.

“I think we did a good job closing the game. I don’t think we did a solid job defensively tonight,” reacted the top performer focusing on the team effort, “Overall, the team stepped up in the second half. We knocked down some big shots and great offensive possessions.”

For the home side, Mike James had 23 points and a game-high seven assists but his only turnover for the night with 29.8 seconds on the clock was costly. La Roca Team was down by a margin of three points and fell into a two-possession hole. On the opposite end, Sergio Llull and Walter Tavares splitting free throws in succession provided the required breathing space to seal the deal in Fontvieille, Monaco.

Chus Mateo’s side improved to 16-7 with the eighth win over 12 games on the road and the third in a row at the bottom end of the latest two-game week of the 2022-23 campaign. Through multiple lead changes, the biggest lead for the visitors was merely five points while dealing with a seven-point deficit midway through the third period.

“As a team, we worked together in the bad moments when things were not so good in the third quarter. We were patient and kept working. We found open shots to score from outside,” commented the 54-year-old tactician referring to 14/31 three-pointers, “And we delivered 22 assists. This is very important to pass to each other, to become a team.”

Dealing with adversity, especially foul trouble across the bigs. Vincent Poirier lasted just over five minutes and was ejected with 3:44 left in the fourth quarter. In a similar situation with four fouls to his name, Tavares, the EuroLeague all-time leader in blocks, was limited to 12 minutes logging three points and six rebounds. Picking up additional responsibilities in the paint, Guerschon Yabusele finished with nine points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block.

“This is one of the toughest away games to win. And we did that and showed we are one the best teams in EuroLeague,” said Dzanan Musa after chipping in 14 points and five assists, “We have to continue to work. This means nothing if we don’t continue to progress.”

Gabriel Deck went for 13 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and one steal for the reigning champions of Spain. Rudy Fernandez (right leg) sidelined added on the multiple injuries for the Whites with Carlos Alocen (left knee), Anthony Randolph (left knee), and Alberto Abalde (ankle) all already out.

“We fought until the end,” said play-caller Sasa Obradovic after Monaco was forced to 14-9 with a third loss over 11 home games, “The defeat is bitter but it’s not the end of the road. A lot of games to be played. I can’t be disappointed with this one.”

Apart from James, Elie Okobo with 16 points and Alpha Diallo with 15 points were the remaining double-digit scorers in the losing effort. Yoan Makoundou being ruled out reduced players dressing to eleven.

Next challenges for Monaco and Madrid

The team based in the Principality of Monaco will continue wrapping up a three-game homestand, first against Paris in France’s Betclic Elite LNB Pro A looking to improve the league-high 16-3 tally Sunday and next Friday opposite domestic rival LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in the premier club continental competition of Europe.

Moving forward in the 2022-23 schedule, the Madrid outfit will visit back-to-back champion Anadolu Efes in Round 24 next Thursday. Meanwhile, playing host to Lenovo Tenerife Sunday provides the opportunity to rise to 16-3 in Spain’s Liga Endesa.

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