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Maccabi defeats Barcelona; Coach Spahija on Jackson, “He is one of the most talented players I have ever had in my career“

Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Barcelona 94-82 to move to 12-10 in Euroleague play and currently sit in 8th place two games ahead of Baskonia. After a fairly even first quarter, the Yellow & Blue opened up an 8-point lead 46-38 after twenty minutes thanks in part to Jake Cohen’s inspired play on both end of the court. The visitors cut the Maccabi lead to 65-61 after three quarters of action but Pierre Jackson dropped 15 of his 18 points in the final frame to help the host’s take the 94-82 win.

1) Jake Cohen certainly earned his keep over the last couple of weeks taking home back-to-back MVP honors against Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion and looked to make an impact when given the opportunity in Euroleague action. And an impact he would make as the Pennsylvania native rattled off 8 points in his first 6 minutes of play to help Maccabi take a lead into halftime. Cohen’s defensive prowess was also on display as the Davidson graduate showed that he belonged with Europe’s big boys as he spoke about the importance of the win, “We knew the importance of it and we haven’t been playing as well as we wanted to in the Euroleague. We’re trying to get as many wins as we can and when we can. To get one at home that’s really big and we earned it. We deserved the win today.” Number 15 also commented on the effort he put in to get the opportunity to show his worth, “It’s the culmination of a lot of work. You just wait for your time and when you get it you hope things work out for you and they did tonight. When I got in I wanted to focus on doing every little thing right. You can’t focus on big things like making shots, that’s out of your control. You just want to do your best and help the team and I was able to do that. That’s all I want to do, to help the team win.” Head Coach Neven Spahija also spoke about Cohen’s play, “He has been playing very good basketball lately. We knew he was going to play important minutes but we couldn’t predict how many. I liked his reaction and I’m so happy for him.”

2) It was interesting to see how Pierre Jackson’s evening played out as we usually see the guard play serious minutes in the first half as well as the third quarter, but that wasn’t the case against Barcelona. After only 3 points in under 9 minutes of first half play, Jackson didn’t start the third quarter which is what usually occurs for the Yellow & Blue. As everyone wondered what was up with Jackson and would he get his points, I was confident that he would and that’s exactly what happened with #55 went off in the 4th quarter for 15 points, going 4/5 from beyond the arc. When I asked Jackson about his heroics, he kept referring to Norris Cole and his teammates for being the catalysts, “The game didn’t come to me in the first half and that’s what it is. Norris came in and did a great job to get us the lead. I came in the second half and helped the team out.” The Las Vegas native continued, “Norris did a great job getting us that lead and I was able to come in and finish it with some open shots thanks to Jonah and I was able to get it going.” The Baylor University product also talked about the importance of the win, “It was huge. We need every win that we can possibly get. It felt good after they kicked our butts out there in Barcelona. It was a big step for us.”

3) The Maccabi defense looked better against Barcelona than it has been in recent weeks, but the Yellow & Blue still gave up 13 3-pointers. Barcelona has plenty of talented players but when it comes to team play, there was much to be desired. Coach Spahija explained how he saw the defensive effort, “I don’t think we have to separate the defense by three points and two points but look at the defense in general. Sometimes you have to give up on certain things to play good defense. We gave up some 3-pointers due to over helping which has been a problem for us. I really liked what I saw after the Zalgiris game and we will be even better in the future.”

Coach Spahija received fabulous 4th quarter play from Pierre Jackson and he really opened up about his point guard and what he offers to the team while complimenting the ball handler, “He is one of the most talented players I have ever had in my career. You can’t give up on him. I think this year we lost one game due to a bad performance at the end. It’s tough to keep that talent on the bench even when he doesn’t play his best game. This time we had it right and he did what he did usually but just for a short amount of time.”

The Last Word – DeAndare Kane