By Stefan Djordjevic/ email@example.com
VEF Riga has had its ups and downs early on this season in the Basketball Champions League but their latest display showed an upward route as they got a very important win against AEK Athens.
It was also quite a convincing display by the Latvians who got a 92-76 victory against the team which they will face already in the next BCL game on November 15th.
Jalen Riley was the main force behind the winning effort with 25 points on 6-11 from three while also dishing seven assists and grabbing six rebounds. He banked in 11 points in the first quarter already.
— Basketball Champions League (@BasketballCL) November 3, 2021
“I thought we came out with a sense of urgency, played aggressively, and stuck to what we wanted to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball. It helped to have a good start and get our momentum rolling. We were able to carry it on for the rest of the game. I thought that was big for us, just starting the game well and sticking to what we wanted to do, especially defensively,” Riley said at the post-game press conference.
That performance marked the best one ever by a Riga player in the BCL when it comes to scoring and Riley is also only the second player this season in the competition to put up 25+ points and 5+ assists. He’s been averaging 14.7 points, four assists, and three rebounds while shooting 46% from deep.
Additionally, in the Latvian-Estonian league game that came before the clash against AEK, Riley banked in nine three-pointers and 31 points against Liepaja. The nine triples were actually a tie for the competition record.
It seems as though Riley had only one ‘bad game’ so far this season when he scored two points and shot 1-6 from the field (0-5 from three) against Falco Szombahtley in BCL. Perhaps that poor shooting display gave him the extra motivation to set things right and he sure did so as Riga went on a 4-0 winning streak across all competitions.
All of this becomes even more impressive taking into consideration that this has been Riley’s first season in the Basketball Champions League and the first in European competitions at all.
The path of the 28-year-old East Tennessee State alumni didn’t push him into the spotlight overnight. Throughout the past seven years and following a dominant college run, Riley had to change seven destinations, playing in lower divisions as well.
He started off his pro career in Slovakia, followed by Iceland and one year-stints in Spain, Lithuania, France, Portugal, and now finally Latvia. In France, Riley played for Cholet and it was his first run in a top domestic league. It didn’t bother his numbers, scoring in double-digits and averaging 43% from three.
His mentality was always strong and the character of not giving up is exactly what Riga (1-2) needs at the moment as they chase Falco (2-1) – and Nutrilbullet Treviso (3-0) – in Group D while also keeping AEK (0-3) of their backs.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League