Balint Wary of Oostende Threat



7. Darrel Mitchell (BC Oostende)
Darrel Mitchell and BC Oostende came out on top of the Belgium/French Group H

BK Prostejov coach Peter Balint is eager to resume his team's EuroChallenge campaign.

On Tuesday, the Czech club hosts BC Oostende on the first night of the Last 16 and Balint fully expects a tough Group L opener.

"We enter the Last 16 of the EuroChallenge against a very high-quality opponent," he warned.

"The elimination of French teams Nancy and Orleans (in Group H) says a lot about the quality of the opponent.

"Their style is characterized in particular with a very aggressive and agile basketball, mainly based on an excellent transition game."

Of all their qualities, Oostende's best may be their mental toughness.

Despite losing two of their first three games in Group H, Jean-Marc Jaumin's team didn't lose heart and instead won their last three games - all of which were close - to finish top of their pool with Dexia Mons-Hainaut also progressing.

Also in Group L, Lokomotiv Kuban are at home against BC Zadar.

Lokomotiv, who are led by Lithuania's national team boss Kestutis Kemzura, dropped their opener against Antwerp but then reeled off four victories in a row and finished first in Group F.

They are tough, which was evident by the club's near upset of CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital over the weekend.

CSKA won that game, 89-87, after overtime.

BC Zadar, meanwhile, booked their Last 16 spot on the last night of the Regular Season with an 81-67 home success against ETHA Encomi, a result that improved the winners' record to 3-3 in Group G.

They are fighting for their Adriatic League lives.

Zadar are second bottom of that competition with five wins and 12 defeats.

Benfica Travel To Classy Ventspils

7. Saulius Kuzminskas (BK Ventspils)
Lithuanian Center Saulius Kuzminskas is rock solid for Ventspils with 12 points and 8 rebounds per contest as well as 2.2 assist

BK Ventspils won Group B with a 4-2 mark.

In the Last 16, they are in Group K and the first opponents are Sport Lisboa e Benfica, who will be looking for an improved performance on their previous trip to the Baltics.

In their last Regular Season game, Benfica visited Estonia and lost 80-64 to Tartu Rock.

"The big difference compared to other opponents of the (Last 16) group is the fact they have great international experience," said Benfica boss Henrique Vieira.

"It is the strongest team in Latvia, with many championship titles, and has two excellent foreign players and many of their national team players, in addition to Lithuanian players."

Norrköping Dolphins will have their first-place finish in Regular Season Group D put to the test when they play in France against Gravelines Dunkerque.

‘Show Time' Comes To Spartak

In Group I, Spartak Saint-Petersburg will encounter a Barak Netanya side that has the explosive scoring of Adrian Banks.

The American leads the EuroChallenge with a scoring average of 21.3 points per game.

Banks isn't just making the headlines in Europe.

In Israel, he is the slam dunk champion and over the weekend, he had four rim-rockers in Netanya's 85-59 rout of Maccabi Ashdod.

"We flashed some 'show time'," said a grinning Netanya coach Eric Elfasi.

While Spartak won Group A with a 5-1 record, Netanya had a 3-3 mark in Group D to finish second.

Another Israeli team will be in Group I and they couldn't have asked for a tougher Last 16 home opener.

Lukoil Academic won five of their six games to finish top of Regular Season Group C, and the Bulgarians will be looking to do more of the same in the new phase of the competition though the team will be without Kaspars Kambala.

The Latvian center parted ways with Lukoil during the winter break and the club signed Croatia center Bruno Sundov as his replacement.

Haifa have also had some big changes, with Ami Nawi replacing Elad Hasin as coach and the club also bringing in point guard Jermaine Jackson.

In Group J are KRKA Novo Mesto and they square off against Dexia Mons-Hainaut while Antwerp Giants face Pinar Karsiyaka.

Injuries are likely to rob Antwerp of Jef Van der Jonckheyd (hip) and Randy Oveneke (knee).



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