By Jeff Taylor
From six unbeaten teams to zero.
That's what can happen and did happen in what has been a very competitive EuroChallenge this season.
Spartak St Petersburg, Lukoil Academic Sofia, Belgacom Liege, BK Prostejov, Pinar Karsiyaka and SLUC Nancy all bit the dust for the first time this week.
In Group H, where close games are the norm, it wasn't surprising that Nancy went down by two points to Oostende because they had only just won their first three games.
Unlike the first game, when Oostende out-rebounded Nancy in France 48-35 but still lost, this time the lack of success on the boards hurt Jean Luc Monschau's team.
|Matthew Lojeski and BC Oostende handed Nancy their first defeat in this season's EuroChallenge|
They gave away 39 rebounds - 10 on the offensive glass - while grabbing just 31 boards themselves.
"I have the feeling that we were not ready for this game," Nancy point guard Kenny Grant said.
"They really killed us on the boards. If we want to win on the road we need to show a different mentality."
The more significant difference in the rematch compared to the first game, in fact, was at the free-throw line.
In the encounter played in France, Nancy got to the stripe nearly twice as many times and finished 26 of 37. In the second, they were just 11 of 20.
The margin for error isn't great for either of these sides. It's not unrealistic to think Group H could finish with four 3-3 teams.
BC Oostende, meanwhile, may have beefed up their perimeter offense. In four games, they have made 22 off 67 shots from long range.
The club has this week signed Dusan Katnic and Oostende are so excited about the Serbian's arrival from Red Star Belgrade that they tweeted about him on Friday.
The team captain, Veselin Petrovic, went to meet Katnic at the airport upon his arrival and on Friday, a BCOOSTENDE tweet read: "First individual shooting practice for Dusan made our coach Jimmy happy!!!"
Like Oostende, Dexia Mons-Hainaut are 2-2 following a come-from-behind win over Entente Orleanaise.
Orleans are 1-3 after three narrow defeats in a row.
Not Too Hot To Trot
Spartak St Petersburg went down for the first time after being run out of the gym in Hungary by Szolnoki Olaj.
"Today we played poorly and lost," Miha Zupan, the Slovenia international in the Spartak line-up, said with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Now a must win at home against Gravelines and Nizhny Novgorod."
One of the players that has emerged as a real threat in the EuroChallenge is Obie Trotter, who had 19 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Trotter, 26, was named MVP of Week 2 after a 35-point explosion against BC NN.
His performances are bringing back memories of Rodrigue Beaubois in the 2008-09 EuroChallenge campaign when the young Frenchman got hot from three-point range while playing for Cholet.
Beaubois, in a five-game stretch late in the season, buried 20 of 31 shots from long range.
Trotter has so far nailed 16 of 32 (50%) of his shots from the arc.
He was three of five this week against Spartak.
Four other teams have something in common with Szolnoki Olaj.
Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Barak Netanya, KRKA and Lokomotiv Kuban all lost in the opening week but have since reeled off three straight wins.
Taking It To The Banks
Adrian Banks is looking like a potential EuroChallenge MVP with Netanya because he is averaging 24.5 points per game.
In his team's loss at Liege at the beginning of the campaign, he was guilty of some free-throw misses that cost them victory.
Banks was just seven of 14 in that game.
In the three wins that have followed against Norrköping Dolphins, Türk Telekom and Liege this week, Banks has made 21 of 24 free-throws.
Now that's what you call a major turnaround!
Banks ranks first in a lot of statistical categories in the EuroChallenge, including free throw attempts.
He is averaging 9.5 attempts per game.
Another category is scoring average, with his 24.5 per game second to none.
Oh Those Missed Free-Throws
If Deutsche Bank Skyliners fail to advance from Group B, and that is very likely with the team 1-3, their profligacy at the line late in games is going to be a big reason.
They missed key free-throws at Khimik last week, which opened the door for a late comeback and a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Curtis Millage in a 61-60 victory.
At Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday, Gordon Herbert's team made just 11 of 21 (52.4%) shots at the line overall, with two misses by Marius Nolte just 21 seconds from the end leading to their demise.
Free-throw woes can ruin an otherwise good evening.
Nolte was one of his team's best players and finished a point shy of a double-double.
He had 11 rebounds to go with his nine points but was just one of six at the free-throw line.
Haifa (2-1) will be breathing a sigh of relief because they were even more atrocious at the stripe, sinking 11 of 22 (45.5%).
Kudos To Tartu Rock
Estonians Tartu Rock had to dig deep at home to Lugano Basket to win their first game.
They ended up with a 91-88 triumph in overtime.
Tartu have a strong player of the week candidate in Callistus Eziukwu, who had 18 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and the go-ahead jumper in the extra period.
The 25-year-old has quietly become one of the best players in competition, averaging 10.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest.
He is number two in field goal percentage (63.6%), second in offensive rebounds (4.3 per game) and second in rebounds overall.
ETHA Encomi Alive And Kicking
ETHA Encomi have rebounded nicely from their season-opening mauling in the first battle of Nicosia against Apoel.
They defeated Apoel this week, 74-67, and stand an excellent chance of advancing from Group G.
They are 2-2, like Zadar - a team they beat by 12 points and will meet again.
Also in Group G, Pinar Karsiyaka lost their first game of the EuroChallenge to Zadar, 82-77.
They should have lost by even more because with 7:06 to go, they trailed 77-54.
Another side that is right in the thick of things is Steaua-Turabo after their 72-59 Group F victory over Enterprise BC Dynamo.
The result left the club with a 2-2 record - the same as Antwerp Giants after their defeat at Lokomotiv Kuban.
On the down side, Steaua-Turabo's (Bogdan) Popescu, (Uros) Lucic, (Dumitru) Carutasu and (Bogdan) Tibirna all picked up injuries.
Popescu's was, in fact, a broken nose.
Over And Out
BC NN, Türk Telekom and KK Zagreb will play no part in the EuroChallenge at the end of the Regular season after suffering defeats for the fourth consecutive time this week.
The 0-4 records have mathematically eliminated them from contention for a spot in the Last 16.
BC NN fell 72-64 to BCM Gravelines Dunkerque, Norrköping Dolphins won 77-71 at Türk Telekom and Zagreb crashed to a 79-62 loss at Telekom Baskets Bonn.