Zamalek point guard Walter Hodge set the tone on Monday when he scored nine of his 12 points in the opening quarter, sparking his team to a 97-64 win over Algeria’s GSP at Kigali Arena.
The 34-year-old was 4-for-4 from the floor including a three-pointer, giving the Egyptian outfit a 37-16 lead at the end of the first 10 minutes.
Hodge wasn’t the only Zamalek player who played with a sense of urgency. Moustafa Elmekawi led his team with 19 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Anas Mahmoud contributed 13 points and eight rebounds and Ahmed Abdellatef scored 11 points off the bench.
The former African champions’ quick start reflected Zamalek’s authority as it stretched its lead to as many as 35 points.
GSP played without its two leading scorers, Mohamed Harat and Abdellah Hamdini. They fought hard, even going on a 6-0 mini-run in the third quarter, but Zamalek didn’t panic. They remained in total control, leading from start to finish.
GSP was led by Algerian international player Seddik Touati, who finished with a game-high 20 points. Hichem Benayad-Cherif scored 10 points and Merouane Bourkaid added 11 points for the five-time defending Algerian champions.
Zamalek’s dominance was so evident that all 12 of their players played at least six minutes.
“I am happy for the win. We had only 18 turnovers today [after averaging 25.5 turnovers in the first two games]. That’s an improvement compared to our first two matches,” Elmekawi said in the post-game presser.
With the win, 3-0 Zamalek advanced to the BAL quarterfinals as winners of Group C.
Zamalek head coach Agust Julbe refused to highlight one single player’s performance, noting that, “We are a team. There will be one game that one player will take center stage, the next one could be another player, like Moustafa [Elmekawi]. Every player on this team will have his own opportunities. Of course, we have players with leading roles, but this is a team effort.”
“[Walter Hodge] is a key for us, he knows that. He had a good start, but it wasn’t just him. The whole team got the job done.”
Julbe acknowledged his team’s progress offensively but noted they have room for improvement on the defensive front.
“[Tonight] we had the worst defensive game in this tournament, considering that GSP missed two key players. We could have done better. But, in the end, it’s a success that we won three games, we moved on to the next stage, and, hopefully, we’ll keep winning games.”
What the numbers say:
Zamalek score its first two points in the opening six seconds of the game and it never looked back.
Outscoring its opponent 60-32 in the paint and in the fast-break (38-5) exemplified Zamalek’s sense of urgency in the game that eliminated GSP (0-3) from the BAL.