VEF Riga, Latvia vs. «Neptunas» Klaipeda, Lithuania
Recent acquisition Vasylius can’t save Neptunas
In Week 11 of the regular season, Latvian VEF overcame Lithuanian Neptunas in Riga, 94-89. The game was close through the first 25 minutes, but the home team went on a crushing 13-point run, determining the outcome of the game.
The Lithuanian team only had 10 players available in Riga, including their two recent free agent acquisitions. Forward Valdas Vasylius started, while center Simas Galdikas appeared on the court later. Despite their roster troubles, the Lithuanians had the early upper hand.
Playing in their traditional white jerseys, the Neptunas players made themselves at home. They drove to the basket, ran the fast break, and shot from downtown whenever possible. Newcomer Vasylius excelled from range, hitting three of five attempts. Compared to the Rigans’ overly conservative play, which sought to maximize their advantage on the glass, the visitors’ aggressiveness paid off. They secured a decent lead after one quarter, jumping ahead by double digits, 24-14.
No sooner had the Lithuanians opening run come to an end, however, when VEF’s superior class began to be seen. The home team slowed the pace, forced their opponent into positional battles and used their individual talent and total domination in the paint to eat up the deficit. The Latvians couldn’t hold the lead, however. With Neptunas’s leaders back on the court and a zone defense in effect, the visitors preserved the status-quo and a four-point lead at halftime – 46-42.
The turning point came in the third quarter. The home team proved why they were favored. First, VEF shut their opponent down on defense, then knocked Neptunas back with accurate shooting. Kristaps Janicenoks and E.J. Rowland’s three-pointers, accompanied by a layup from the American, gave the lead back to the Rigans – 55-51. Although their lead was still insignificant, it looked as though VEF had the game fully in control.
The proof came soon after. Silly turnovers by Neptunas, a toothless attack, and chaos on defense characterized the conclusion to the third quarter. The Lithuanians’ 13-point deficit (72-59) appeared insurmountable, which it turned out to be. Several Vasylius 3-pointers in the final period helped the visitors close the gap, but they were still unable to get back in the game. Despite the close final score, Neptunas had no chance of winning the game.
Star of the Game
E.J. Rowland. The American point guard was nearly invisible in the first half, scoring twice. Their leader’s uncharacteristic passivity served as one of the reasons for VEF’s unconvincing play at the start of the game. However, when the game got close, Rowland began firing on all cylinders. He put together the decisive run in the third quarter and kept the Rigans on top in the final 10 minutes. The American scored 16 points in the second half alone.
Stat of the Game
12 – number of points scored by Neptunas newcomer Valdas Vasylius in the first quarter. The visitors were able to start so well in large part thanks to his accurate shooting. The forward didn’t stop there. He remained the most dangerous player on the team, putting on a remarkable performance from beyond the arc – seven of nine! In the end, Vasylius scored a game-high 32 points.
VEF: Antanas Kavaliauskas – 21 points, 10 rebounds.
Neptunas: Valdas Vasylius – 32 points.
Picture of the Game