BBL Cup, Group 3
London Lions   98-89 Leicester Riders  (25-12, 45-40, 77-67, 98-89)

Copper Box Arena, 22 Nov 2020

The London Lions became the first team to qualify for the Quarter-Finals of the BBL Cup beating the Leicester Riders in fine fashion, 98-89,  at the Copper Box.

Led by DeAndre Liggins’ 26 point 6 steal 5 rebound performance, the Lions shot the ball well, 58% from everywhere, as they punished the Riders sagging defence. Dirk Williams would only miss one shot as he went 9 for 10 to get his 20 points, whilst League MVP, Justin Robinson showed a return to form that had been apparent earlier in the weekend in Newcastle as he directed the execution.

It was a blistering first quarter that put the visitors to the sword. An 11-3 start in the first 3 minutes had Riders Coach Paternostro burning a time out as Dirk Williams almost tore the basket down with a dunk. The Riders grabbed a bucket, but Robinson nailed a three, a Liggins steal saw an assist to young Kingsley Okoroh who scored before Kevin Ware dropped from range. Okoroh was having a field day inside as he went 4 for 4 and the quarter was capped by Captain Joe Ikhinmwin’s triple, 25-12.

The Riders struck back in the second quarter to avoid a blow out, the impressive Geno Crandall was trying to shake off the shackles and found time to assist William Lee and Corey Johnson. Chris Tawiah hooked inside for two. Riders went to the free throw line 13 times in the first half to the Lions’ three and that enabled them to take the quarter but still trail 45-40.

A 6-11 start to the third quarter for Leicester saw them tie the game at 51 with just two and a half minutes gone, Okoroh halted the run and Liggins hit 10 in a row as the lead was pushed back out to 63-53. The visitors effort to get back in the game in the first half had drained them as the Lions depth showed through. Robinson ended the quarter with a steal and a buzzer beater at the half way line falling out of bounds – Riders knew it wasn’t their day. 77-67.

The fourth saw the Lions maintain the status quo despite a game high 31 free throws to the visitors. Patient play, ball sharing and deadly shooting had Riders chasing shadows, the home side sealed the game and claimed their Quarter-Final Place 98-89.

Crandall led the visitors with 18 points and 9 assists, supported by Lee who had a double double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Lions had impressive numbers across the board, Liggins the star man but the rotation of the guards keeping the pace and energy where it needed to be.

Coach Macaulay was happy to see his side through, “It was a tough weekend, we needed to show character and we did, there are a lot of big game players here and we needed to sort out who we needed when, I thought in the second half DeAndre drove us hard whilst Dirk was having a day in the park the way he scored, Justin, well was Justin, we can take a rest from the weekend now then in the week get back to reassesing where we are, we have a new player to integrate and we move on.”

The Lions take a break now before League play starts with a trip to Newcastle on the 3rd of December, Live on Sky Sports.

Report; Duncan Hooper, Pic; Carol Moir