The Leicester Riders suffered their first defeat of the season, going down 96-88 to the Newcastle Eagles in the BBL Cup North group.
Riders never fully recovered from an explosive first half by the Eagles and, without the injured Maurice Walker, the Riders struggled to keep Newcastle off the offensive glass.
Former league MVP Rahmon Fletcher was a handful all night and he set his stall out early with a three-pointer on the opening play and an and-one drive to make it 6-1 inside the first minute. Newcastle’s superior height meant almost every shot they missed in the early stages turned into a second chance opportunity, but with Jesse Chuku showing his all-around offensive game at the other end, Leicester were level at 12-all.
Six points from Namon Wright made it 24-25, but the visitors hit three-pointers either side of the first quarter break to open a 39-29 advantage early in the second period.
Whilst they were scoring well enough, Riders could not stop Newcastle and at the interval the Eagles had posted 57 points – more than Sheffield managed in the entire previous game at Morningside Arena and the most an away team had scored against the Riders since February 2015.
Threes from Fletcher and Rodney Glasgow to start the second half had the Eagles lead out to 14, although Josh Ward-Hibbert, continuing his impressive start to the season, briefly got the arrears in single figures.
Another Fletcher long range effort to end the third period saw Riders staring down the barrel of a 15-point deficit and two minutes into the fourth it was 89-70. But Leicester then made a charge, scoring 14 of the next 17 points to put themselves within striking distance at 84-92. They had their chances to cut it further in the final two minutes, but were unable to get close the gap.
Chuku (20) and Kyron Cartwright (19) both posted their best points tally so far in a Riders’ shirt, with Cartwright adding 10 assists. Ward-Hibbert posted a fourth consecutive double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, as well as six assists and three steals.
Riders: Chuku 20, Cartwright 19, Wright 17, Ward-Hibbert 15, Thomson 8, Anderson 7, Roberts, Lascelles, Dieterich, Scott, Talley Jr.
Eagles: Fletcher 28, Mitchell 16, Aded-Hussein 15, Glasgow 12, Defoe 11, Williams 7, Schlitzer 5, Lasker, Matthews, Yabantu, Kande.
The Riders return to action next Friday as they take on the Cheshire Phoenix at the Morningside Arena, CLICK HERE to get your tickets!