You’ve Gotta Have Heart: Kyser & Holon get by tough Cluj with tantalizing rematch just two weeks away

Nov 4, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Holon were tested on Wednesday night against Cluj with physical rough and tumble play after coming off an Israeli league loss to Hapoel Jerusalem and Maurizio Buscaglia’s crew passed with flying colors with a 78-68 win to move their Champions League record to a perfect 2-0.

The hosts were able to compensate for their lack of size with athleticism, aggressiveness and intensity to notch the hard earned victory as Cluj pushed Holon to the limits and didn’t break which made the club’s Italian bench boss one happy camper.

Whether it were the starters from Michale Kyser (15p/9r/3a/3blk) who finished the game off in style along with Joe Ragland, Steven Gray and Chris Johnson to their bench with a solid contribution from point guard Niv Misgav who was superb scoring 14 points in 20 minutes.

“We found our identity and it was defense first,” Kyser stated. “I’m athletic and lanky and we can switch on multiple positions. We have grit and while other teams are bigger than us, we have a lot of heart.”

As the great Eddie Fisher song says, “You’ve Gotta Have Heart”, and that is what Holon showed all night long.

Following a lackluster defeat to Jerusalem, Holon responded to ensure that they would not put themselves in a precarious position in continental group play. If it taking a tough foul, so be it. In fact, Mihai Silvasan’s squad took 33(!) free throws on the road! When is the last time a visiting team took so many free throws and in this case so many more than Buscaglia’s squad who made only 13 trips to the charity stripe?

Mihai Silvasan – Photo Credit: BCL

“It was a tough physical game and we knew we were going to face a very aggressive team that would shoot many 3-pointers,” Silvasan explained. “I’m proud of how we fought and it wasn’t a perfect game but you have to play to their mistakes. We shot 33 free throws but missed 12 and that happens when you have games like this.”

Both teams knew what they were getting themselves into heading into the game and there were no surprises. The only surprise will be if both teams don’t give us a repeat performance when they meet up for the return date in Romania.

“It was a difficult game from the start and we had to get our fuel back after the loss in the Israeli league. We started making shots and got the W,” Kyser commented.

Michale Kyser – Photo Credit: BCL

“It was a tough game and we knew the crowd would be rowdy,” Cluj high-scorer Elijah Stewart with 18 points said following the game. “But we kept it within two points at halftime and we thought it was good enough. We had some dead times in the second half and we wanted to bring it to their bigs as we had the size advantage. We crashed the boards to get as many offensive rebounds as we could.”

And plenty of offensive boards they did take, grabbing 17 of their 40 on the offensive glass compared to Holon’s 7. Cluj had a very good chance to win this game especially when Buscaglia’s players got into foul trouble plus Frederic Bourdillon was sent to the showers early in the third quarter after collecting two quick technical fouls. However, Holon shut down Cluj’s offense in the final frame limiting them to just 13 points with many coming via free throws late in the game after having only scored their first points with just 4:01 remaining in the game.

Maurizio Buscaglia – Photo Credit: BCL

“I am glad with the win,” Holon’s bench boss said. “It was most important to have a reaction from everyone after our first loss. We put energy on the defensive side of the court and only giving up 68 points is very good. We played for an extra pass, to play the side and bottom and to have everyone involved. We started cleaning our minds in a very tough game.”

One of the toughest players on Holon may also be their shortest in Niv Misgav who has continued to move up the ladder in success and has been an absolute godsend for Buscaglia’s squad. With deft defying moves, Misgav looks to always pass first and get his teammates involved and while his assist numbers may not show it, he was the engine that drove the offense and Buscaglia was fully aware of what his diminutive floor general gives his team.

Niv Misgav – Photo Credit: BCL

“Niv Misgav did a good job and involved Chris Johnson, Rafi Menco and Steven Gray who all played very well without the ball as Joe Ragland followed his lead. I wanted him on the court for the last minutes and his defense was important as we pushed them to miss shots. I liked that I can alternate the players at the end and the point guard just has to pass the ball. Niv made a very important basket under a lot of pressure.”

It’s clear though that Cluj will not be an easy out for any team in this competition and Silvasan made sure to leave a final note about their rematch which is slated to take in just two weeks.

“Of course we believe that we can beat them. We believe that we can beat every team that we play. That’s our mentality and if we don’t go onto that court with that mentality we have zero chances. We believed that we could win today in their home court. We try to put ourselves in the position to win every game with our effort and intensity.”

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