AEK were put to the test by a tenacious Cholet but became the first team to win three games in the 2020-21 Basketball Champions League Regular Season and maintained sole possession of the top spot in Group C.
Elsewhere in the same group, Tsmoki Minsk claimed their first win on the road in convincing fashion. They stifled Hapoel Holon, while over in Group A, Iberostar Tenerife cruised to a comfy victory over Galatasaray at home and improved to 2-1 in the standings.
AEK had to hold off a tenacious Cholet down the stretch but managed to eke out an 83-81 victory at home to start their campaign on three wins in as many games for the first time in their five seasons in the competition.
By contrast, and despite their brave effort on Tuesday, the French team who traveled to Athens without Yoan Makoundou and Terrel Parks are the only team that has still to taste victory in Group C.
The two teams traded blows throughout the opening frame, but AEK appeared to be making clear progress when they kicked off proceedings in the second period on a 16-4 run.
Matt Lojeski poured in 8 points in his first six minutes off the bench to give the hosts their biggest lead of the night, 37-24, but Cholet quickly proved showed that this was not going to be a comfy game for the hosts.
Lasan Kromah knocked down a long two 6:55 from the third buzzer to give Cholet their first lead since the opening exchanges, 48-46.
AEK reacted swiftly, and Yanick Moreira converted a three-point play to give AEK a seven-point cushion, 70-63, with 6:37 remaining to the final buzzer.
Cholet still had plenty of fight left in them, though, and after Gerry Blakes missed a triple that could have tied the scores, Michael Stockton came up with the offensive board, and Kromah scored with a layup to reduce the deficit to just one point, 80-79 with just 20 seconds left on the clock.
But AEK called a time-out, and when play resumed, Cholet fouled Lojeski, who kept his composure at the stripe and sunk both free throws to seal the win for the Athens team.
Moreira had a BCL season-high 21 points and added 4 rebounds, and Lojeski finished with 18 points, 4 boards, and 3 assists. Kromah picked up a game-high 22 points and Nianta Diarra collected a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds in losing efforts.
Tsmoki Minsk held Hapoel Holon 15.5 points below their season average going into Tuesday’s clash to celebrate their first road win behind an impressive defensive effort, 79-69 in Israel.
Holon, who had averaged 84.5 points over their first two games in Group C, played without the sidelined through injuries Richard Howell and Willy Workman on Tuesday.
Minsk employed an excellent half-court press to make life difficult for the hosts and reached a 12-point lead as early as 1:26 from the first buzzer, on a Benjamin-Pavel Dodoo layup in transition that made it 26-14 for the Belarus champions.
Isaiah Miles knocked down his fourth triple in as many attempts to reduce the deficit to 26-23 just before the 9-minute mark in the second frame, but Minsk stopped the rot. Toms Leimanis sunk two free-throws 1:58 from halftime to give Minsk their biggest first-half lead, 47-32.
Holon didn’t show any signs of life after the interval, and after Leimanis drilled a triple at the end of the possession, Dodoo followed up with two free-throws to stretch the Minsk lead to 60-41 with just 36 seconds left to the third buzzer.
Leimanis paced Minsk with his 20 points off the bench while Maksim Salash posted a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Tyrus McGee had 20 points for Holon in defeat.
Iberostar Tenerife closed out the opening quarter on a 20-6 run to jump in the driver’s seat and maintained a firm grip on proceedings the whole night, en route to an 85-72 win over Galatasaray at home.
The Turkish team, who traveled to the Spanish island without the sidelined through injuries Alex Hamilton and Baris Ermis, scored the first five points of the encounter.
It took Tenerife almost four minutes to get off the mark, but after Sasu Salin scored the first two of his 14 first-half points, the Spanish team poured in 20 points in just over six minutes and were already leading by nine at the first buzzer, never to look back again.
The hosts’ lead ballooned to as many as 22 points shortly before the halftime break, and even when Galatasaray made a late attempt at a comeback, Tenerife replied promptly.
After Yigit Arslan hit a triple to reduce the deficit to seven points for the first time since the opening frame, 69-62 with 5:24 remaining to the final buzzer, Aaron Doornekamp, and Tyler Cavanaugh drilled a triple each in quick succession to restore Tenerife’s comfy cushion.
Salin finished with 21 points, and Cavanaugh had 16 points and 6 rebounds, while Daryl Macon collected a game-high 23 points in defeat.