Roll’s Shooting, Zoos’s moving, Eilat’s a pretty darn good team but fall to Maccabi 101-91

Maccabi Tel Aviv stopped Hapoel Eilat’s nine game winning streak and defeated the Red Sea City squad 101-91 at Yad Eliyahu. Swarming defense, a steal by Yovel Zoosman and key buckets by Scottie Wilbekin, Michael Roll, Alex Tyus and Johnny O’Bryant made the difference as the yellow-and-blue remained perfect at home.

Eilat, who were playing without point guard Avi Ben Chimol kept pace with the hosts throughout the contest thanks to Elijah Bryant’s 20 points, 10 of which came in the final frame and JP Tokoto’s 21 points. Although the visitor’s took a short lived lead late in the 4th quarter, Wilbekin’s 13 final frame points, Tyus’s perfect 7/7 night from the field for 14 points, Roll’s clutch triples for 18 points and 6 assists along with O’Bryant’s trio of 3-pointers gave coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos the win.

1) Eilat is a good team, actually a very good team but they have a lack of depth which will hurt them anytime there is an injury. No Avi Ben Chimol, no one who can dish the ball out like he can, except that Eilat’s players all step up to help and they can keep it competitive or even win. Sharon Drucker’s squad had been without Lenzelle Smith Jr. for a few games and it was only the State Cup game at home against Hapoel Holon (which was of course the most important one) where they felt it. Bottom line, Eilat needs a few more good men, but with budget being an issue it will be very difficult to add some extra pieces to a very talented team that also includes Elijah Bryant and JP Tokoto.

2) Yovel Zoosman played 28 minutes and performed well as he continues to evolve on the court as he scored 10 points on 4/6, pulled down 3 rebounds, added 2 assists and stole the ball 3 times, one in money time off an inbounds play and put it home himself. It’s fun to see him play and improve after captaining the Under-20 Israel National Team to the European Championship. “I feel that everyone has confidence in me, from the coaches to management and even manger Ami Bitton who gets upset at me that I don’t shoot enough,” Zoos explained. “It’s in my hands at the end of the day and I am happy with how it is going. But it depends on me and I have to help my teammates because I am getting a lot of minutes and I have to be able to give back.” I’ve got a secret for you Zoos, everyone wants to see you shot more! Keep shooting, you’ll keep scoring.

3) Michael Roll is beginning to look like the player we all remember from last year. The guard is getting good shots off and scoring some key baskets throughout the past few games. I asked Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos about how Roll is finally getting back to himself, “He is in a good rhythm now and he’s in good shape. I have always believed that he was one of our main players and he’s very experienced in clutch and crucial moments. He stepped up over the last few games and I have liked that very much.” If the Yellow & Blue want to make a dent in the Euroleague, Roll is going to be a key player for them from the outside.

Speaking of Roll, The Sports Rabbi had a chance to talk to the UCLA product about his recent run, “It took time due to the change that we had and to understand what the new coach wants. These last couple of games I’ve been more aggressive and look to make plays for my teammates with the assists. It’s for the team and not just personally when I’m attacking, It’s good for everybody.”

“I’ve been working on that a lot in practice. I haven’t been getting as much catch and shoot 3-pointers and the defense keyed in on that. I’ve been working to take threes off the dribble and pick and roll and in the motion of the offense.”

Can Maccabi make a move in the Euroleague? “I believe it and we have been really working hard together. Every day we are taking a step forward and we are making strides. We were very close in Madrid. We just got to improve.”

Are the games against Buducnost and CSKA must wins? “It’s a must. I really hate to use that word but we really have to take care of business. We have to start with the first game and hope we can get the W and then go into the cold of Russia hope we can get that one too. It starts one game at a time but definitely we need a win.”

Roll will also be playing against his former teammate in Norris Cole, “We are going to have to stop the fast break. He’s ultra fast and it’s going to be good to see him. I hope he won’t play well but it will be good to see him.”

And-1 and Some
* Nimrod Levi was terrific scoring 11 points in 18 minutes of play. Good to see Levi getting not only playing time but playing quality minutes…
* Not sure why Jake Cohen only played 8 minutes…
* Alex Tyus continues his fine run with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 blocks…
* Scottie Wilbekin was phenomenal down the stretch…
* Credit to Jonny O’Bryant for some key buckets in crunch time…
* DeAndre Kane, Angelo Caloiaro and John Dibartolomeo continue to struggle shooting the ball…
* Tarik Black played 8 minutes and scored 6 points. Hopefully he continues to recover from his injury and can be a factor for the Yellow & Blue…

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