The Israel National Basketball Team defeated Romania 87-63 at the Drive In Arena in Tel Aviv to move their Eurobasket 2021 qualifying record to a perfect 2-0. The blue-and-white contended with a pesky Romanian squad forcing the game to played at a slow pace throughout the forty minutes but that didn’t stop the Maccabi Tel Aviv duo of Jake Cohen and Deni Avdija from starring in the victory. Captain Gal Mekel was able to break down the visitor’s defense while Holon’s TJ Cline scored key baskets to help lead Coach Oded Katash’s squad to the hard earned victory.
Deni Avdija made the most of what will probably be his only qualifying game with an MVP performance of 21 points and 8 rebounds along with a team high 25 efficiency rating, Jake Cohen added 17 points while captain Gal Mekel chipped in with 11 points and 4 assists in the win. Mirel Dragoste led Romania with 11 points and Emanuel Cate scored 10 points for Romania in the loss.
The blue-and-white came into the home tilt against Romania after defeating Poland 75-71 in their in their first Eurobasket 2021 qualifier last Thursday as Gal Mekel played brilliantly, recording a double double with 11 points and 10 assists to go along with 3 steals. Veteran forward Guy Pnini was also instrumental in the victory with 9 points while big man Idan Zalmanson added 12 points and Rafi Menco chipped in with 10 points in the win.
Gal Mekel thread the needle to Itay Segev to get Israel off and running early on in the first quarter while Rafi Menco hit from deep as did Maccabi Tel Aviv Captain Jake Cohen giving Israel a 9-2 lead midway through the frame. Deni Avidja came on for Mekel after the Romanian timeout and nailed a triple on his first chance of the game. Former Real Madrid property Emanuel Cate got on the board as did Mihai Maciuca and Mirel Dragoste for Romania but Oded Katash’s blue-and-white took a 16-12 advantage after ten minutes.
Veteran forward Guy Pnini put home a 3-pointer and TJ Cline scored inside but Lucas Tohatan and Tudor Gheorghe each hit triples for Romania and Cate found points as well to pull to within two points 24-22 with six minutes remaining in the second quarter. Cline scored a pair of baskets and Avdija found the bottom of the bucket in the paint to quickly give Israel some breathing room 32-25 with 4:22 left in the first half.
Cohen dropped a layup off an Avdija assist and Cohen did the same thanks to a Pnini helper but Julian Orbeanu went from long distance while Radu Varna also scored from beyond the arc as the visitors kept the game close. However, a triple from Avdija and a Segev dunk gave Israel a 43-38 lead at halftime.
Mekel opened the third quarter with a pair of free throws while Cohen scored another uncontested layup but once again Romania came back as Dragoste scored six points to cut the Israel lead to 47-44 midway through the period. Avdija put back an offensive rebound and added a pair of free throws while Giordan Watson drove to hoop and scored a reverse layup to keep the blue-and-white honest.
But an Avdija jumper in the lane and an elbow triple by Menco gave Israel a ten point, 56-46 advantage with 4:25 left in the frame. Points by Maciuca and Cate gave Romania hope but points by Cline, Mekel and Cohen made sure to send Katash’s crew into the fourth quarter with a 9-point, 65-56 lead.
Cohen sliced up the Romanian defense to begin the final frame as layups by Avdija and Mekel plus a Menco triple gave Israel a 75-60 advantage with 6:18 left in regulation time. Pnini did what he does best and scored from beyond the arc while Nimrod Levi added his first points of the game as Zalmanson and Avdija also found the bottom of the basket to help Israel to a 87-63 win.