Basketball: Leicester Riders go joint top of BBL with win over Sheffield Sharks
Leicester Riders moved level at the top of the BBL Championship table with a 77-54 victory over Sheffield Sharks.
It was the fourth time the Jelson-Homes DMU Riders have played Sharks this season – and the third time they've kept them below 60 points. But they needed that defensive effort at Loughborough University, as Sheffield made life difficult for Riders for the first 28 minutes.
Drew Sullivan set out his intentions early on, netting a three-pointer for Riders' first score. But as they committed five first-quarter turnovers, Leicester were unable to get away from their visitors.
Indeed it took a great baseline spin and dunk from Sullivan to see the sides level at 16-16 after the first period.
Riders' superior depth was evident by the fact they had already given nine players a taste of the action before the opening period was over and Connor Washington hit from behind the arc to push Leicester 26-23 ahead.
Barry Lamble and Jamell Anderson were also giving Leicester a spark at the defensive end but, at the offensive end, aside from Sullivan, Riders were not quite hitting their usual high standards.
Sullivan netted another long-range effort in the third quarter to edge Leicester five points clear and their relentless defensive pressure was starting to takes its toll.
Another Sullivan triple and some breakaway points saw Leicester post nine consecutive points late in the third quarter to move into a double-figure lead at 52-39.
BJ Holmes finished the period with a three-pointer, but it didn't stop Riders' momentum as they began the final quarter with five points in a row to extend their lead to 15.
Leicester were in complete control by this stage and when Sullivan and Jay Couisnard hit three-pointers on consecutive plays, they were 66-47 clear.
Sullivan was the star, making four of his six three-point attempts to post 21 points as well as grabbing eight rebounds, with the rest of the points well spread across the team.
Riders: Sullivan 21, Couisnard 12, Anderson 11, Taylor 9, Losonsky 6, Rowe 6, Washington 3, Calvo 2, Lamble 2, Williams, Dawes.
Sharks: Babalola 13, Jemison 12, Holmes 11, Williams 10, Bridge 3, Tuck 2, Brownell, Lewis, Gachette, Sing.
Riders will face Worcester Wolves in the semi-finalists of the BBL Trophy.
Wolves booked their place with a shock victory over holders Newcastle Eagles. Ties will be played over two legs before February 24, with the winners progressing to the final, on March 9, at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.
The other semi-final pitches Sheffield Sharks against Cheshire Phoenix.