- National Teams
Leicester Riders suffered a tough 78-90 loss at home to Dinamo Sassari as they began their FIBA Europe Cup campaign, on Wednesday evening.
Rob Paternostro’s side stayed in contention for large parts of the contest before the Italian visitors finally pulled away in the final period to take the victory.
DeAndre Burnett hit 23 points in defeat with JR Holder adding 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Kiefer Douse had 10 points.
Riders found things tough going on the offensive end early on as Achille Polonara imposed his presence with three of four blocks for his side in the opening four minutes. Crucially, the BBL champions held their own at the other end – despite two early fouls for Douse – as they kept their opponents to just four points in the final 6:15 of the opening quarter as threes from Burnett and Conner Washington helping tie the game at 13-13.
A pair of free throws from TrayVonn Wright gave Leicester their first lead of the game at 17-15, but it was short-lived as Scott Bamforth scored eight straight points as the Italian side benefited from multiple second-chance opportunities to move 24-31 ahead.
Douse knocked down a three inside the final minute of the half, but the gap would remain at seven with Riders trailing 34-41 at the half, despite being out-rebounded 28-16 after giving up 11 offensive boards. Burnett led all scorers for the home side with nine points albeit on 2 of 10 shooting with Leicester held to 28% shooting from inside the arc.
Those numbers shot up early in the third as the Riders came out strong from the half-time break to cut the gap to just three points at 45-48. Andy Thomson picked up his fourth foul at the mid-point of the quarter, but still the much-fancied Italians struggled to break clear.
Riders kept responding. Holder and Washington hit big threes and the deficit was even slimmer at two points. But as Sassari began to find their rhythm on offence, it became tougher and tougher for the Riders to respond. Harrison Gamble hit a three with Leicester edging the third period to only trail 60-66 ahead of the final 10 minutes.
Douse reduced the deficit to four with the first points of the fourth, but the visitors finally established a double-digit advantage through the inside work of Daniele Magro and a four-point play from Jaime Smith as part of a 9-0 run to make it 62-75. Thomson knocked down a three to break his side’s scoring drought only to foul out on the next possession with 4:54 left on the clock.
Rema Lascelles also connected from downtown with Leicester finishing 12 of 27 from 3-point range as they kept the scoreline respectable in a 12-point defeat. Jack Cooley led the winning effort with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Sassari.
In the other game in Group H, Szolnoki Olaj edged out Hungarian compatriots Falco Vulcano 79-76 with Riders traveling to Szombathely next Wednesday to take on the losing side.