VEF Riga, Latvia vs. CSKA Moscow, Russia
CSKA returns triumphantly to Riga
In the third week of the regular season, Russian CSKA defeated Latvian side VEF in Riga, 75-67. The hosts fought valiantly throughout the evening with the defending champions, but, in the end, CSKA’s superior quality shone through.
Riga waited more than two decades for CSKA’s basketball team to return, and this year they finally ended up in the same group – fated to meet on the court once again. All available tickets sold out within a few days as the Latvian faithful eagerly anticipated the showdown and what they hoped would be a successful night for their club. In addition to the rich history between these two franchises, VEF’s great start to the season heightened the excitement.
VEF came out blazing, ignited by the energy in the stands, and seized an early lead. By the middle of the quarter, the noise in the arena went through the roof as the Latvians took a 14-10 lead. CSKA, unlike its opponent, stayed away from the three-point line. On the other hand, they excelled in the paint, with the Army men shooting perfectly from within the 3-second zone in the first quarter. They made it through the period on top, 21-19.
Ettore Messina remained unsatisfied, instructing his team on how to improve their defense for the entire break. During the second quarter Riga’s team play led to several turnovers, forcing VEF to rely more on individual drives to the basket. CSKA aggressively defended in response, denying the home team time and again – VEF’s best efforts thwarted. CSKA’s steals, quick bursts, and beautiful play under the basket allowed the Muscovites to add to their lead by halftime – 45-34.
At the beginning of the second half, VEF got its second wind as American point guard E.J. Rowland’s play restored his partners’ confidence. The Army men looked to increase their lead from beyond the arc, but only hit one of seven attempts, allowing VEF to cut the deficit to 6, 56-50.
In the fourth quarter, CSKA tried to create some separation, but VEF successfully answered with accurate shooting. Kristaps Janicenoks’ three-pointer with 3 minutes to go brought his club within 4, and the crowd grew still in anticipation of a thrilling ending. Unfortunately, the home team had nothing more to give. CSKA put together another run and finished the game the way everyone had expected.
Sonny Weems. CSKA’s newcomer showed his best stuff tonight, demonstrating his versatility to the Latvian fans. The former NBA forward looked great on defense, in addition to collecting the best overall field-goal percentage of the game – 13 points, 3-4 from beyond the arc.
Both teams shot well from the three-point line in the first two weeks of the season, but today neither team did much to excite the fans with their outside shooting. VEF hit only 5 attempts (31.2%), CSKA – 4 (23.5%).
Stat of the Game
6 – number of turnovers for VEF leader E.J. Rowland.
CSKA President Andrey Vatutin:
- This may sound like an exaggeration, but our return today to Riga was an historic event. Our hosts were tremendous and it’s a pleasure to play in their arena. I also appreciated the value placed on basketball tickets here – fans come to the arena, pay 12€, and watch the game. Everything is top-notch organizationally in Riga. As for the game, I’m happy with the result, first and foremost. There are a few areas in which we can improve, but overall the team really pleased me today.
Лучшие у команд
ЦСКА: Ненад Крстич – 13 очков, 7 подборов; Сонни Уимс – 13 очков, 5 подборов, 5 передач; Милош Теодосич – 13 очков, 7 передач.
ВЭФ: Эрл Роуланд – 19 очков, 5 передач.