LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne did not look like the favorite squad in its Round 11 showdown against FC Barcelona. ASVEL was on a three-game losing streak and looking for its first home win of the season after losses against Zalgiris Kaunas, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and Zenit St Petersburg. On the other hand, Barcelona was on a seven-game winning streak before this game.
Moreover, ASVEL did not do very well against Barcelona in the last 24 years. The French powerhouse was on an eight-game losing streak against Barcelona which included all seven previous showdowns this century plus the 1997 EuroLeague semifinal, 77-79. ASVEL’s previous home win against Barcelona came on December 12, 1996, 91-90 in overtime.
Things were different than expected on the floor, however, as ASVEL dominated the game, winning the opening three quarters to lead 25-19 after 10 minutes, 45-36 at halftime and 65-53 at the end of the third period, and kept full control of the game until the final buzzer. Barcelona’s sole lead of the night came at 5-6 early in the game.
Everyone contributed for ASVEL, but Norris Cole’s return was really important. He came off the bench and did not have spectacular numbers – 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists – but provided the experience and court sense ASVEL requited to avoid losing control. Cole also sealed the outcome midway through the fourth quarter with a wild three-pointer and a jumper which allowed ASVEL fans at home to start celebrating.
“I was ready to play. I know what I am capable of doing out there. It was all about having confidence, the team having confidence and playing together,” Cole said after the game. “We played together tonight. It is a momentum boost. Obviously, we didn’t start the way we wanted to start the season, but we have to take the good with the bad, so we are staying together no matter what.”
Barcelona managed to stop Moustapha Fall, who had season-lows of 6 points and 12 PIR, but by double-teaming him in the paint, ASVEL found good shots outside. The hosts hit 13-of-21 attempt from downtown, one shy of its club record. It also registered its third-best three-point shooting percentage (61.9%) in EuroLeague history. Its best two marks, 70.6% and 63.6%, came in 2002, against Virtus Bologna and Scavolini Pesaro, respectively.
Meanwhile, Barcelona only downed 2-of-8 three-point shots (25%). Barcelona had not taken so few three-pointers since March 31, 2005 against Real Madrid. Kyle Kuric, who is averaging 68.0% from downtown this season, did not shoot from beyond the arc. Alex Abrines, a 45.5% three-point shooter in the 2020-21 campaign, missed his only attempt.
With Fall neutralized, ASVEL’s frontcourt stepped up. Amine Noua played with outstanding energy and hit a critical three-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Ismael Bako had 3 blocks and stopped Brandon Davies down low, and Guerschon Yabusele had 7 points, 3 rebounds and an emphatic block to put the exclamation mark late in the game.
“I am really happy for the players. I am really happy because, like I always said, they work hard in practice every day. We are practicing well and I think Norris gave us a push,” ASVEL head coach TJ Parker said in the press conference room. “I think he was missing a little bit and scored some points. But I think it was a good all-around game. I mean, we were up the whole game against the best team in Europe, the best defense. It is well-deserved for the guys.”
ASVEL plays two games next week – a postponed home showdown from Round 3 against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Tuesday, and a road one against Real Madrid on Friday. David Lighty, who led the way with 17 points against Barcelona, believes the team that use this win as a momentum changer.
“We have been working so hard and things have not been going our way, but we kept fighting,” Lighty said. “Anybody can beat anybody; this is how it is this year.”