| ||To say Yarone Arbel likes basketball would be an understatement of epic proportions. He eats, sleeps and breathes it and gives his EuroChallenge impressions every week in By The Numbers. |
The last week in the Last 16 brought several episodes that decided the Quarter-Final Round pairs while producing some special numbers.
From the great show of the unknown Nicolas Lang, through a great finish by KK Zagreb's Krunsolav Simon and Basket Roanne's Mouloukou Diabate to the no players in double-digits for Belgacom Liege. These were the numbers of the 6th and deciding week in the Last 16.
7 in 3: Krunoslav Simon of KK Zagreb is one of the better all-around players in the competition, but he has a special feeling when it comes to Artland Dragons. In the first game between the teams he scored 16 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished five assists. This week he had similar numbers with 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals, but the timing played a key role. Inside the last three minutes Artland held a six point lead, about to take the group's first spot and eliminate the locals. Simon stepped up and after missing his first five attempts from the arc sank back-to-back three pointers to tie the score. With two seconds on the clock he added one more point from the line, to reach a total of seven, more than half of his points, in the most important three minutes of the EuroChallenge season for his team.
13: Artland Dragons needed to win in Zagreb to grab the top spot in the group. In the Last 16 the Croats won all their road games, but lost twice at home, while their win in Quakebruck came only after overtime. Everything was set for another tough battle for the Dragons. Coach Leibenath prepared his players well, but probably didn't imagine his team would hit 13 three-pointers at 50% and miss just a single shot from the charity stripe, yet drop the game, the first spot and the ticket to the next round.
2: Mouloukou Diabate, the back up guard of Roanne Basket, isn't the main offensive weapon on his team. He averaged four points per game this season, and reached a double-digit in points just once the whole season. Inside the last minutes of Roanne's crucial home game against Antwerp Giants, a game they had to win to grab the top spot in Group L, he had zero points after missing all his five shots from the field. Nevertheless, with the game tied at 66-66 and just a few ticks to play, he went to the foul line for the first time in the game. In the entire season, up to that moment, Diabate had just 10 free throw shots, but his nerves proved to be as strong as needed, and his two shots put Roanne on top of the game and the group, to hold the home court advantage in the Quarter-Finals.
24: Vassil Evtimov, the Bulgarian big guy of Proteas EKA AEL, was always a great rebounder, but going on 33 he's focusing mainly on the glass these days. In his first game with the team he had more points than rebounds, but since then it's a different concept. Actually in the last two games Evtimov reached double figures in rebounds but missed the double-double because of points. He combined for 24 rebounds in those two games but only 11 points, on his way to a unique season average of 4.7 points and 6.7 rebounds.
27: Elan Chalon needed a win against Scavolini Pesaro to qualify, but since Apoel won at the other game the French side returned the keys. One thing that did stand out in their 94-88 win was the performance of a young talent by the name Nicolas Lang. The 19 year old French shooter finished the game with 27 points in 28 minutes by going five of five from inside the arc and from the foul line in addition to four three pointers at 66%. His performance was even more impressive considering that most of it came in the fourth quarter when his team took over the game. Lang scored all of his two-points in the closing period, added a three ball and capped it with the five big shots from the line in the closing 90 seconds to secure the win. A total of 18 points in the last 8:30 of the game, yet that's still not the most amazing story here. Up until today Lang participated in only one game of his team, two weeks ago against KK Buducnost. There he scored five points, without a miss from the field of course, but in all the other games this season didn't see any floor time at all. His huge step up out-of-nowhere in the last quarter of the Last 16 will focus some attention on the young prospect, but his team didn't make it and will concentrate on the French league from now on.
The disappearing 3: Enisey Krasnoyarsk needed to beat already eliminated Banvit BC and for Antwerp to lose to make it to the next round. Well, Antwerp did lose, but the Russian side didn't do their job with an 94-85 loss, and their fingers can be pointed in one direction. There are only three non-Russian players on the team - Fred Warrick, Kaspars Kambala and Lionel Chalmers who carried the team the entire season, but in the big game weren't at their best. They combined for only 34 points and at a terrible accuracy of 10 made shots in 37 attempts. Warrick went three out of 12, Kambala reached six of 15 shots and Chalmers finished the night one out of 10.
16-4: BC FMP needed to beat Belgacome Liege to get the ticket to the next round, and they made it happen with an 81-55 victory. The key was an early second half run to change it from a close game to a one-side game. FMP came back from the locker room with a 36-33 lead, but wrote a 16-4 run in the next five minutes to reach a 17 point lead. During that run FMP missed just one shot and turned the ball over just a single time. Such level of focus on such a young team deserves good words.
0 in double-digits: The game wasn't that important for Liege to begin with, and FMP made a statement early in the second half to make things clear, yet Liege finished the games in a very bitter taste. It wasn't only the 55 points scored by the team, but also that no player managed to reach double-digits - an unusual sight in a boxscore.
1 out of 8: It's not easy to take over a game in the last quarter if you're behind, and this week was a good example for that. No less than seven of the eight teams who held the lead at the end of the third quarter also won their game. Chalon were the only team to make a difference and with a 32-22 last quarter win they managed to turn the result over.
55 on 67: The game in Chalon sur Saone between Elan Chalon and Scavolini Pesaro not only produced a lot of points, as the locals won 94-88, but also a very big amount of assists. The two sides combined for 55 assists, a season record, while Chalon wrote a season high for one team with 31 assists. It's the fourth appearance for Chalon in the top 10 single game assists performances in the season. 55 assists on 67 field goals is far from a common figure on any basketball court.