If you looked at the box score from Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade’s thumping 68-89 victory at LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne on Wednesday night, you would assume that the Serbian team’s triumph was a two-man show courtesy of Jordan Loyd (29 points, 31 PIR) and Corey Walden (20 points, 32 PIR). That’s not entirely true, because Zvezda’s success required a strong and physically intense team effort on defense, limiting the home team to just 21 field-goal conversions all night as ASVEL was instead forced to score from the foul line with 25 free throw attempts.
Of course, somebody had to do the damage at the other end, and with a combined total of 55% of their team’s points, it was clearly Loyd and Walden who stepped up to answer that call. In the case of the former, that was no surprise at all; Loyd, after all, has been scoring for fun all season and his haul was the sixth 15-plus point night already for the EuroLeague’s leading scorer.
Walden’s effort, however, was less expected. The 28-year-old guard, who joined Zvezda in the summer after impressing for cross-town rival Partizan NIS Belgarde during last season’s 7DAYS EuroCup, enjoyed a breakout evening. His 20 points were combined with 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals – all personal highs in his so-far short EuroLeague career. In fact, before Wednesday night, Walden hadn’t scored more than 12 points in a EuroLeague game, dished more than 3 assists or claimed more than 2 steals, so he has now set new standards to live up to in the coming weeks.
His excellence in every aspect of the game was underlined by the fact that he did not commit any turnovers and drew 8 fouls to bolster his scoring with 7 of 8 attempts from the foul line. And in addition to all those numbers, Walden further boosted his team with the key intangible qualities of energy, drive and determination, never appearing to be even remotely tired during his 22:42 on the floor.
After the game, Walden downplayed his efforts and preferred to hail Zvezda’s collective effort, saying: “Everybody stepped up, offense and defense, and I’m happy we got our first win on the road.” He also noted that his teammates are far from content with their week’s work, knowing that a tough battle with Real Madrid lies in wait in Belgrade.
And if Wednesday’s heroics are a sign of things to come, Los Blancos will find it tough to stop Corey Walden on Friday night.