Eurocup Qualifying Round
|Nikola Dragovic returned to Spartak this season and brings valuable experience from last year's campaign|
Spartak Saint Petersburg know they can win the big games.
After all, the club captured the Cup of Russia last season.
But then again, Spartak know they can lose the big ones, too.
Spartak were two victories away from a European title several months ago and lost both of their games at the EuroChallenge Final Four.
The 2011-12 campaign has only just started and Spartak, under new coach Jure Zdovc, already find themselves getting set to play in a crucial game.
On Tuesday, they will be at home against ETHA ENGOMI in the second leg of their Eurocup Qualifying Round tie.
Spartak prevailed 60-59 in the first leg on Wednesday.
It could have been so much better for Spartak because the Russian outfit was on top by 14 late in the third quarter.
They were still in front by seven with 2:55 to go after a Yotam Halperin three-point play.
The Cypriot club continued to battle, though, and that means there is all to play for in St Petersburg.
"I wish we had won by 20, because our team is better," Zdovc said.
"We played well, but on several occasions lost confidence on offense and didn't make a number of open shots."
Miha Zupan, one of the Spartak big men, believes it is going to take time before Spartak get anywhere close to their best.
"It was the first game of the season," the Slovenia international said.
"I hope that in the second, we will play better.
"But it's very important for us to win and get into the main draw of the Eurocup."
Spartak can improve in two specific areas on offense and enhance their chances.
On Wednesday night, they made just three of 20 (15%) shots from long range.
They also struggled at the charity stripe, going nine of 17 (52.9%).
Israel international Yotam Halperin says it's important not to lose sight of the fact that Spartak did win, and that they'll be at home for the next game.
"Most importantly, we won," he said.
"We could have won by more than one point, but most important of all, it's a victory.
"Of course, now let's look at the video, analyze the mistakes and try to avoid making the same ones in the second game.
"We definitely need to be concentrated in order to prevent what happened at the end of the game."
ETHA coach Antonis Constantinides has sent out a warning, though.
"We are going to Russia next week to win the game," he said.
Most of the Eurocup Qualifying Round ties hang in the balance.
BK Ventspils will travel to Ukraine and take on Azovmash, carrying a one-point lead from the first leg.
If Aco Petrovic, the Azovmash coach, didn't know much about Ventspils' exciting new signing, Jahmar Young, he does now.
The 24-year-old American had 28 of his team's 75 points on Tuesday and could find it much harder to operate on the offensive end in Mariupol.
Ventspils coach Gundars Vetra will know that Oleksiy Pecherov had a quiet opener for Azovmash with seven points and could cause a lot of problems in the return leg.
Artland Dragons have their work cut out for them if they are to play in the Eurocup after falling at home to Gran Canaria, 61-56, in the first game.
The German club's forward, Anthony Hilliard, likes his team's chances.
"We played one of our worst offensive games and only lost by five," he said.
"So I think we have a chance to beat them at Gran Canaria."
Dexia Mons Hainaut didn't catch a break when the draw for the Eurocup Qualifying Round was made because they ended up with Besiktas, a team that had the finance to go after a huge signing in Deron Williams.
A gold-medal winner with Team USA at the 2008 Olympics, Williams didn't have his best shooting night in the 78-70 first-leg triumph, making three of 15, yet still finished with 15 points and nine assists.
In Belgium, Williams says, the Besiktas players won't be thinking about their eight-point advantage.
"We'll play aiming to play better ball and to win," he said.
"We won't repeat our mistakes in the last quarter (of the first leg), and we'll be better as a team every passing day."
Cedevita's fans will be happy they have a competitive game to watch after seeing their team fall behind Elan Chalon by 22 points early in the fourth quarter.
Fortunately, the players rediscovered their confidence and fought back to lose the first leg in France by just five points.
Now Cedevita will have the home backing.
"I hope there will be a lot of fans to cheer us and help us make up this little difference so that for the second year in a row we can play in the Eurocup," veteran shooting guard Marino Bazdaric said.
|Mire Chatman and Pinar Karsiyaka have some work to do to overcome Lukoil in Sofia|
Pinar Karsiyaka were a formidable side at home in the EuroChallenge last season but they got off on the wrong foot in Izmir this season, losing 80-73, to Le Mans.
Coach Hakan Demir will be hoping the team finds its shooting touch in France because in Turkey, they made just two of 16 shots from long range.
He thinks they can still make it to the Eurocup.
"A seven-point difference is not so big in basketball," he said.
BC Telenet Oostende have a 26-point lead going into the home leg of their tie against Norrköping Dolphins and should have no problems winning on aggregate.
Lukoil Academic will have it all to do when they travel to the Czech Republic for the second leg after winning the first by just five points.
The difference in the first meeting was the Bulgarian side's ability to get to the free-throw line and convert.
They finished 19 of 21 (90.5%).
In this tie, Jovica Arsic, the Lukoil coach, is going up against a player, Travis Peterson, who suited up for him last season in Sofia.
"They have a good scout in the shape of Travis Peterson," he admitted.
"The Czechs will play aggressively at home..."