Turk Telekom 102-74 London Lions (13-18, 40-36, 72-54,)
(Turk Telekom: Sestina, 20; Grant, 18; Yilmaz, 15 — Lions – Dekker, 20; Koufos, 13; Zubcic/Hruban/Nelson, 9)
London Lions battled valiantly but ultimately lost their EuroCup, Group B clash 102-74 to Turk Telekom in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday night.
Both teams came into the game in good form, as the Lions saw off the Cheshire Phoenix, while Turk Telekom B.C beat fellow EuroLeague giants Fenerbahce in the Turkish League.
Turk Telekom came into the game sitting in second place in Group B and moved into pole position – nudging out Gran Canaria on points difference, with the Lions now slipping into seventh place ahead of their clash with Paris next Wednesday.
Nathan Sestina led the home side with 20 points and Jerian Grant added 18. Notably, Tyrique Jones had 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
For the Lions, Sam Dekker finished with 20 points as their three-game winning run in the EuroCup came to a halt.
The teams were evenly matched in the first half. The first quarter was a relatively low-scoring affair considering the depth and talent on both sides.
High-intensity defence was on show to begin. Kosta Koufos broke through first with a hook shot before a baseline dunk from Dekker. Tomislav Zubcic also got in on the action, backing down his man and scoring inside with an and-one.
Grant connected with a three-pointer from the corner for the hosts, scoring five points in the opening quarter. Vojtech Hruban scored off a Dekker assist. At the end of the first period, Dekker rose up to knock down a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
The Lions took a four-point lead in the second quarter with a Koufos dunk. But Jones willed his team back into the driving seat – finishing a reverse layup followed by an emphatic alley-oop dunk.
Veteran big man Koufos proved effective for the Lions – scoring nine points and cleaning the boards in the second quarter. But the Turk Telekom side started to build some momentum. Grant and 2010 FIBA World Cup silver-medallist Semih Erden connected on a pair of three-pointers.
Zubcic and Jones traded dunks to open things up in the third. In the third quarter, the home side worked into their groove. The home team’s ball movement found wide-open spaces for Yilmaz’s three-pointer. Jones scored eight of his 20 points in the quarter.
By this time, the hosts had built a 15-point lead. Sestina capped off a 6-0 run with an excellent finish at the basket. A Jones’ dagger three from the corner was countered with a Josh Sharma dunk off a pick-and-roll.
The highlight play to close out the quarter came from Jones, who finished a reverse alley-oop dunk with style.
Playing through Ovie Soko’s slashing game, the Lions reduced the margin in the fourth. Soko scored a three-point play, and Luke Nelson tallied seven of his nine points to close the game.
Turk Telekom B.C will take on the Turkish side Gaziantep on Sunday, 18 December. The Lions will come up against Paris on Wednesday, 21 December, at the Copper Box.
With the top eight teams advancing to the knockout stages. Every one of their remaining 12 games now becomes crucial to secure qualification.
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