|12 March 2012|
Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada didn't lose a game in the EuroChallenge Last 16 but cracks have started to appear in the Spanish Liga Endesa, where the team suffered a third straight setback on Sunday in a 92-81 defeat at Bilbao Basket.
Spain's only representatives in the EuroChallenge, Fuenlabrada know the competition may be their best chance of snatching silverware this season.
They'll be expecting a fight from Triumph Lyubertsy in Tuesday's opening game of the Quarter-Finals.
The Russian team, which recently confirmed that Vasily Karasev will serve as coach for the remainder of the season, is flying.
They overcame an 0-3 start to the Last 16 to advance to this stage of the competition.
Triumph recently beat Turkish Airlines Euroleague outfit UNICS Kazan in a Russian PBL game and also won twice at Siauliai in the Baltic League over the weekend.
In the last Regular Season game of the Baltic competition on Friday , Karasev's team prevailed 78-72 and it followed that up with an 84-76 victory on Saturday in the opening game of the Quarter-Final series between the same two sides.
In that play-off victory, Sergey Karasev had 22 points and Jerry Jefferson 21.
Triumph and Fuenlabrada will meet in Game 1 on Tuesday in Madrid before squaring off in Game 2 on Thursday in Russia.
If necessary, a deciding Game 3 would be played at Fuenlabrada on 20 March.
SEASON SO FAR
• Fuenlabrada have been one of the best teams in the EuroChallenge all season long and that is despite having to overcome a lot of adversity. Porfirio Fisac's team won four of their six games in the Regular Season and then, despite the loss of Gustavo Ayon to the NBA's New Orleans Hornets and a season-ending injury to Mo Sene, won all six games in the Last 16. That included two victories over Turkish Cup winners Besiktas. On the domestic front, Fuenlabrada played well enough to reach the mid-season Copa del Rey but lost to eventual winners Real Madrid in their opening game.
• Triumph had been coached by Valdemaras Chomicius but his last time in charge of the team turned out to be a Regular Season game at Okapi Aalstar. During the clash, the Lithuanian didn't feel well and visited a hospital for a health check. He returned to the team later that night and in the end, never returned to the bench. Vasily Karasev, the former Russia point guard who had been serving as the assistant coach, took the reins and despite the tough start in the Last 16 rallied the side to three straight wins and a spot in the Quarter-Finals. Triumph are in the Baltic League play-offs and also fourth in the Russian PBL.
THE HOT HAND
• Leo Mainoldi poured in 18 and 17 points, respectively, for Fuenlabrada in their last two wins against BK Pardubice and Besiktas Milangaz. In that stretch, he has made four of seven shots from long range.
• Jerry Jefferson is averaging 17.7 points in his last three EuroChallenge games for Triumph.
• Kirk Penney is shooting 50% (26 of 52) from long range for Fuenlabrada in the EuroChallenge but has made just four of 14 (28.6%) in his last three games.
• Sergey Karasev, the son of coach Vasily Karasev, has scored at least 19 points in four of Triumph's last six EuroChallenge games.
Fuenlabrada's Joaquin Colom against Triumph's Dmitry Kulagin in a backcourt battle.