Leicester Riders are a step closer to their fifth consecutive major final, and get the chance to defend their BBL Cup title, after winning on the Road at Plymouth University Raiders, 89-95, in the semi-final first leg.
The Riders inflicted a first home defeat since the end of September on their hosts, as Jay Couisnard – MVP in last year’s Cup Final – posted a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds. But Donald Robinson, for the Raiders, led all scorers with 30 and his teammate, Matt Pressey, posted the most impressive stat line with a triple-double of 13 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
The Riders dominated the early exchanges after Couisnard scored the opening five points and their early advantage became 4-14 on Anthony Downing’s three-pointer. The reigning champions have not always been slick on offence this season, but there was no sign of that as they racked up 29 first quarter points, with Couisnard adding two more triples for 11 points in the opening ten minutes.
Eight second quarter points from Trevor Setty helped the Raiders – Cup runners-up in 2009 and 2012 – narrow it to a one shot game by half time at 41-43, on Pressey’s buzzer-beater. But they couldn’t maintain that momentum after the break as Couisnard pushed the visitors back into a double-digit lead by scoring five in a 7-0 burst, and they carried that margin into the fourth quarter at 61-71 as Jorge Calvo and Drew Sullivan added three-pointers.
The Riders looked like they were going to carry a significant double-figure lead into the second leg of this tie as, entering the last minute, they led by 12 after Sullivan’s ‘and-one’ play. But Pressey and Robinson each scored triples late on to give the Raiders a real shot in the return fixture at 89-95.