|12 March 2013|
When EWE Baskets Oldenburg take to the floor against gutsy Khimik Yuzhne on Tuesday, they will try to lay the foundation for a new chapter in the club's history books.
The German side reached the EuroChallenge quarter-final stage for the very first time and is still waiting for the first international cup in their trophy case.
Having cruised through the Regular Season and the Last 16 with only one loss to their name, the time has come to switch gears and confirm the previous performances.
"This play-off series is a tough task, a real test for our team," Oldenburg head coach Sebastian Machowski told fibaeurope.com.
"Khimik is a team with a lot of skilled players like Willie Deane. We will need to do our homework on the defensive end."
Deane has been the major threat on the Ukrainian side, averaging team-highs in points and assists with 14.3 points and 5.3 assists per contest.
The American point guard is the head of a deep and versatile team, and while Khimik are already doing a good job on rotating their players, their opponents might be the epitome of depth.
"We are trying to be successful as a team. Our deep roster has also helped us to compensate the few injuries we had," Machowski added.
"In the EuroChallenge, we have been thinking from game to game, from round to round, and I hope that we can use our home-court advantage and make the next step."
|Khimik's main threat is point guard Willie Deane|
Khimik Yuzhne had a season of ups and downs, sneaking into the quarter-final play-offs with a 3-3 record.
Their confidence has grown ever since, as the Ukrainian outfit are on a four-game winning streak in the domestic Superleague and standing in third place with a 21-13 record.
Zvezdan Mitrovic's men are coming off two victories on the road, having beaten Dnipropetrovsk sides Dnipro and Dnipro Azot on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
The hosts on the other hand are well-rested, having played their last domestic game on 2 March, recording a convincing 84-68 victory over Artland Dragons.
The EWE Baskets could lean back over the weekend and watch the big-name clubs like Brose Baskets Bamberg, Bayern Munich and ALBA Berlin fall.
Oldenburg are currently in third place with 16 wins and seven losses - only reigning champions and league leaders Bamberg have less defeats to their name, having lost four games.
Whilst German basketball fans and media see Oldenburg stepping out of the shadows of the big fish, coach Machowski is holding his horses.
"Our goal for the domestic season was to reach the play-offs. We are currently working on our position, and if we are to have home-court advantage, this would be a great result."
"We're heading in the right direction," he summed up his team's season so far, with a big dose of understatement to his words.
SEASON SO FAR
|EWE Baskets head coach Sebastian Machowski is relying on a deep and balanced roster |
Having exchanged big parts of the roster before the start of the season and brought in Machowski as the new play-caller, Oldenburg have done a remarkable job both in domestic and international competition.
The new arrivals as well as the players who had stayed at the club, had to adapt to the coach's philosophy.
"Playing in the EuroChallenge helped us a lot to catch our rhythm and come together as a team," Machowski explained.
"We lay our focus on strong defense and balanced offense. We are difficult for opponents to read."
The team-play on court is reflected by the numbers on paper. The minutes and responsibilities are equally shared between 10 players spending more than 15 minutes per game on the court. Seven of those players are averaging more than eight points per night.
Oldenburg ranks second in points per game at 84.8, while a competition-best 11.3 turnovers per game are further proof for their smooth-running offense.
Veterans Ricky Paulding and Julius Jenkins are the only players to score in double figures, averaging 13.3 and 13.0 points per game, respectively.
For Khimik, four players are averaging 10 points or more - Deane, Devoe Joseph, Suad Sehovic and Sava Lesic.
Khimik have a strong presence under the basket in Vernon Goodridge, the EuroChallenge's best shot blocker, who swats away 1.5 shots per contest. They are also the best team in blocks in the competition.
Another strength is their offensive rebounding. A rather mediocre team in defensive rebounding, the front court around small forward Sehovic, who is their top rebounder at 5.8 per-night, pulls down 11.7 offensive boards, second only to Szolnoki Olaj.
Their rebounding prowess earns them the most trips to the line of any team in the competition, which they are converting with a solid 73.3%.