Rodrigo Gomez led the way with 26 points, Joe-Junior Mvuezolo added 22 and Jarett Haines posted 21 as University of Galway Maree withstood Flexachem KCYMS’ fast-paced start to mark their home debut by maintaining their 100% record in this season’s Super League – winning 94-84 on Saturday night.
Head coach Charlie Crowley was delighted with their 92-71 win over Templeogue on MD1 and they did one better among familiar surroundings at Kingfisher against tougher opposition.
In keeping with last weekend’s theme, Zvonimir Cutuk and Gomez were among the players involved with some silky link-up play in the paint as Maree capitalised on their physical advantages.
Cutuk turned from creator to long-range deadeye early in the first quarter, drilling the first of his side’s seven three-pointers as their spacing again proved problematic to cope with.
Flexachem forward Robert Kelly Jr, a highly-regarded 24-year-old American import, was one of the visitors’ few bright notes on an evening which started encouragingly, but fizzled out rather quickly.
His explosive movement, timing and ability to score in multiple ways meant he stood out from the pack. It should be no surprise then, knowing he led the game with 35 points in 36 minutes. The next highest-scoring teammate, Liam Croke, managed just 13 by comparison.
Their case wasn’t helped by a number of costly turnovers and relinquishing possession rather cheaply in the Galway half, as active hands and timely anticipation saw players repeatedly stripped and duly punished with breakaway buckets from Gomez and Haines in particular.
Having led 23-16 to end the first quarter, Robert Kelly Jr threatened to keep it close as an ever-present threat both in possession and off-ball scanning for open shooting spaces.
They say basketball is a game of runs, but KCYMS were never allowed an opportunity to get full steam ahead. Cutuk and Mvuezolo in particular made sure of this, while Galway’s solid man-to-man defence forced a few shot clock violations too.
Couple that with some scrambled decision-making under duress and, well, the visitors were rarely making headway without Kelly Jr on the ball – who was being guarded tightly.
Mvuezolo’s emphatic dunk, ending a sequence with sharp ball movement, appeared to demoralise the visitors.
They had an eight-point deficit to overturn at that stage, yet at half-time it almost doubled and took too long on the shot clock constructing high-efficiency plays.
Maree had more ways to score and as a consequence, could focus their defensive attention on energetic players who would punish them.
Five of Kelly Jr’s last seven points were free throws – all in the fourth with a double-digit deficit – as the suffocating pressure had taken its toll and the result became increasingly secure.
Up next, University of Galway Maree host Garvey’s Tralee Warriors next Saturday (7pm, Kingfisher Sports Centre, University of Galway).
Warriors somehow managed to relinquish a 14-point third quarter lead in a late collapse against Belfast Star and will be itching to atone for their mistakes in a week’s time.