By The Numbers: High Times In Cyprus

11 January 2010

 Yarone ArbelTo say Yarone Arbel likes basketball would be an understatement of epic proportions.  He eats, sleeps and breathes it and gives his EuroChallenge impressions every week in By The Numbers.    

A perfect week for a small country against a terrible week for a big one, showed anything can happen in the EuroChallenge this season.

Several individually great, near perfect and perfect performances lead the Week 5 march as the regular season moves closer to the end of the road.

28/9/7: Only one more game is left for Alex Renfroe in the EuroChallenge and the US point guard in his first season in pro basketball continues to drop jaws with his performances. This week he scored 28 points on 11 out of 17 shooting and once again came close to a triple double with 9 rebounds and 7 assists. This time it was enough also to give VEF Riga a win over Okapi Aalstar. On his last game he'll take on FMP, the only team that managed to somehow contain him. In the first game he went below double-digits for the first time this season (8) but wrote a season high in assists (14) with 6 rebounds.

Only three 3's: EclipseJet MyGuide Amsterdam registered the week's lowest scoring performance with only 51 points in the 20 point loss at Samara. A terrible day from the arc finished with only three hits from downtown in 12 attempts. How far was it from the opponent? Ralph Biggs of Krasnye Krylia by himself scored more three-pointers (4) and it took him only 5 attempts.

22 to 63: When Belgacom Liege and CSU Asesoft Ploiesti came back from the locker rooms the score was 39-41, which is certainly a normal pace for a game. Yet the next 10 minutes showed both sides fail to score and combine for only 22 points. That's the lowest combined score in a quarter this week, which didn't leave a lot of optimism to see a lot of points in the upcoming quarter, only reality had a surprise. Liege won the last quarter 33-30, as the points were almost tripled from the third period. There was a good reason for that though.

12/12: With a bit over 2 minutes to play Asesoft were behind by nine points. Most teams would think it's still a little too early to start marching your opponent to the free throw line, but in Ploiesti, just like at Apple, they think different. Until the buzzer Liege went to the line no less than 16 times. The impressive part was that they scored 15 of those shots, and 12 of the made shots were scored by Mike Green. The American guard went to the line only twice in the first 35 minutes of the game. Then came another march, and in the last two minutes he showed great coolness. Oddly enough Asesoft, all of a sudden, had an answer for any free throw made by the locals, as they missed just one shot during that stretch themselves. No less than 33 points were scored in those last two minutes of the game. Liege hit 15 from the line, while Asesoft 15 from the field, plus 3 from the stripe.

26: Ioannis Giannoulis was one of the best big guys in Europe in the late 1990s with the Greek national team and Paok BC. He even played for Panathinaikos when they won the Euroleague in 2002. Now, at the age of 33, he's playing for Proteas EKA AEL of Cyprus and this week he registered a nearly perfect game to lead his team to an 86-68 win over Dexia Mons-Hainaut. The big Greek reached 26 points by connecting on all eight of his shots inside the arc, his only attempt from long range and missed just one in eight free throw attempts. Add four rebounds, three assists and two blocks for one of the best individual performance of the season.

16: If Giannoulis led his Cypriot team to a win with a nearly perfect game, Jason Hart led another Cypriot team with a perfect night by the books. In only 16 minutes he produced 15 points by hitting all 4 shots in two-point range, both attempts from the arc and two walks to the free throw line. In addition he dished one assist, stole the ball twice and didn't commit a turnover. Yet Hart played a vital part also down the stretch, as Keravnos beat KK Zagreb 82-81. His first free throw attempts came with 1:17 left and the two hits cut the difference to only one. Zagreb, who didn't score a point in the closing two minutes, also saw Hart take a jumper with 19 ticks to give his team their first lead in the fourth quarter, just in time for the W.

20/21: Making free throws is a lot about concentration and focus. This is why normally the more experienced players and teams have a higher percentage. BC FMP doesn't really fit in the category of "experienced team" considering none of the players on the roster was born before 1986 and most of the players are even younger than that. Nevertheless, on the road, in a key game, they set a season high in free throws percentage per team in the EuroChallenge with 20 made shots in 21 attempts. The one to divide FMP from perfection is following.

22: FMP's Miroslav Raduljica is the one who ruined the perfect day, but nobody can be mad at him. On the day FMP played in Banvit he celebrated his 22nd birthday, and the celebration wasn't only off the court. The young big guy produced his third double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but this time also reached a season-high in assists with 5. It wasn't enough for FMP to hold on to their 8 point win in the first round, and Banvit took over the first spot in the group.

15-15-11-11-5: The three double-doubles by Raduljica aren't enough to lead the competition's double-double chart as Jason Conley of WBC Raiffeisen Wels reached already 4. The last of them this week on a 12 point, 15 rebound performance against Antwerp Giants. Standing only at 196cm Conley is the Charles Barkley of the EuroChallenge, and keep in mind he missed another double-double by scoring only nine points. Now pay attention to this: Since the regular season started Conley matched his rebounds to the opponent. In the previous game against Antwerp Conley had 15 rebounds as well. In each of the games against Tartu Rock he had 11 rebounds. The next game is against Artland Dragons, who limited him to his season low with five. Is he going to match that as well or set another double-digit game.

3-0 or 0-3: Ukraine is one of the biggest countries in Europe while Cyprus is one of the smallest, but on Week 5 it was clear which side enjoys better basketball. All three Cypriot teams wrote a win, while all the three teams from Ukraine lost. Some other nationalities that stood out this week were when two Dutch teams shocked their French opponents on the road, while both Croatian teams in the Euro-Challenge lost on the road by a one basket margin.

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