Basketball: Leicester Riders keep heat on leaders with hard-fought win
Leicester Riders kept the pressure on BBL leaders Newcastle with a hard-fought 89-82 victory over Worcester Wolves, at the John Sandford Sports Centre.
After their 19th consecutive home win, the Jelson Homes-DMU-sponsored Riders are now just two points behind the champions with a game in hand and have the chance to move level tomorrow night when they travel to London Lions.
Leicester dominated the first half but had to withstand a second-half fightback by Wolves. But they looked impressive down the stretch to keep the visitors at bay.
Riders set out their stall early with full-court defensive pressure completely throwing Worcester out of kilter.
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A run of 10 unanswered points, including seven from the imposing Drew Sullivan, saw Leicester into a double-figure lead at 17-5.
Not only were Wolves out of sync because of Riders' pressure, they were also getting frustrated and that manifested itself in the form of needless fouls. Before the first quarter was out, three of their starters had picked up three fouls.
Worcester did briefly get the gap back to single figures at the end of the period, but Pavol Losonsky and Zaire Taylor both hit from behind the arc, while Jay Couisnard was also scoring well as Riders moved 38-22 ahead after 13 minutes.
The lead peaked at 18 midway through the second quarter, and Riders still looked comfortable at the break with a 50-37 advantage.
As well as their impressive defence, Leicester were dominating the rebounds, grabbing more than half of their own missed shots and turning them into 19 second-chance points.
After the break, Sherrad Prezzie-Blue and Alex Owumi hit long-range efforts as the Wolves scored the first 10 points of the half. Riders' offence was completely out of sorts at that point and, as a result they turned the ball over a couple of times on shot-clock violations.
Leicester managed just one basket in the first five minutes and Worcester were able to take their first and only lead of the game at 53-52. It was short-lived, however.
Couisnard netted a triple and Sullivan had two strong drives to the basket as Leicester moved back in front 63-55.
With Prezzie-Blue in impressive form, the visitors came back to level the match at 71-71 with five minutes to go.
After making a three-pointer, Taylor came up with a vital steal which he ran back for a lay-up.
This gave Leicester a 78-72 lead with 95 seconds left on the clock.
Couisnard hit from behind the arc with a minute to go, only for Arnas Kazlauskas to respond in kind seconds later.
But Taylor hit another triple to give Riders an 84-77 led with 43 seconds remaining, and they were able to hold their to claim the win that keeps the heat on Newcastle.
Riders 89: Taylor 25, Sullivan 20, Couisnard 19, Calvo 9, Losonsky 7, Rowe 7, Anderson 2, Williams, Washington, Lamble, Dawes, Maynard.
Wolves 82: Prezzie-Blue 26, Owumi 23, Ocitti 16, Kazlauskas 8, Williams 7, Masiulis 2, Morant-Hudson, Fernandez, Ziwa, Dover.