|07 November 2013|
|"It is hard to comment anything, when the defending champion of the EuroChallenge starts the tournament with a loss at home" - Krasnye Krylia head coach Sergey Bazarevich|
EuroChallenge 2013/14 got under way with a bang this week with six teams triumphing on the road, three games decided by a point and a huge surprise, snapping a 16-game EuroChallenge winning streak.
If there is a common thread between the 15 games that took place during the opening week (the Group E encounter between GasTerra Flames and Team TEHO Sport is scheduled for 26 November), it is a sense of balance and equality, as only three teams managed to win by a double-digit point differential.
GROUP B: SAMARA HAS FALLEN
There was no shortage of thrills and shocks on Tuesday, the first day of action in the new EuroChallenge season, but no one managed to turn heads quite as European débutantes Royal Hali Gaziantep did on Wednesday, in Group B.
The Turkish side not only stunned reigning champions Krasnye Krylia 96-89, but they did so away at Samara, after double overtime, and after trailing their Russian hosts by as many as 14 points early on.
Krasnye Krylia, who conquered the title undefeated last season, knew that their 16-game winning streak would end some day, but definitely did not expect it to happen in this fashion.
"It is hard to comment anything, when the defending champion of the EuroChallenge starts the tournament with a loss at home," a still shell-shocked Sergey Bazarevich said afterwards.
The Samara head coach could only watch in despair for 50 minutes as the Turkish visitors converted an amazing 15-of-27 shots from three-point range, the element which was undoubtedly the key to their success.
Young point guard Can Ogut and small forward Mutlu Akpinar were the main culprits in the Turkish capture of the Samara fortress, as they combined for 10-of-15 from downtown.
Ogut finished with 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds, Akpinar had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists and Croatian forward Dejan Borovnjak collected a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, also adding five assists.
In the other game in Group B, Atomerömü SE held off CSM Oradea 78-77 in Hungary, behind 19 points and seven rebounds from Jarrod Jones and a 13-point, three-assist display by Gergely Körtélyesi.
GROUP A: BENELUX TERRITORY
Tuesday action in Group A saw Belgian side Port of Antwerp Giants triumph 74-68 over JDA Dijon on the road and the Dutch of SPM Shoeters Den Bosch prevailing 78-71 over Rakvere Tarvas at home.
Maxime De Zeeuw collected a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds and also added four steals and two assists to ensure the Giants would clinch the win at Dijon and continue the good momentum from their domestic league.
Antwerp were trailing 36-26 in the third period when the 26-year-old Belgian international sparked a 15-2 burst with a jumper and capped it off with triple that brought his side ahead 41-38, within a four-minute stretch.
Point guard Frank Turner contributed 15 points, four rebounds and three assists in Antwerp's success.
At the same time in the Netherlands, Den Bosch were out-rebounding Tarvas 40 to 30 as American forward/center Tai Wesley picked up a game-high 24 points and added five boards to lead the hosts to victory.
De Zeeuw registered an efficiency index rating of 31 on Tuesday, the same as Greg Brunner of Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia, with the two power forwards sharing Regular Season Week 1 MVP honours.
Brunner had 22 points and nine rebounds in Reggio Emilia's 80-63 win at home over Okapi Aalstar in the only game that took place in Group E in the opening week.
The Italian side's 17-point winning margin was the biggest point differential anywhere in the EuroChallenge in Week 1.
GROUPS C AND H: MARTINIC, TIMMA GET HOT IN THE CLUTCH
|The sniper: Goran Martinic went five-for-five from downtown for BC Mures|
In the hours that elapsed between the opening game on Tuesday night and Gaziantep's epic win on Wednesday afternoon, no result and no individual performance had raised as many eyebrows as BC Mures and more specifically, Goran Martinic in Group H.
The Romanians struggled initially in their EuroChallenge debut at Tsmoki Minsk, but as they overcame their stage fright they forced their Belarusian hosts to commit 21 turnovers and rode the hot hand of the Montenegrin guard to an 83-79 triumph.
Martinic hit two back-to-back triples in the fourth to give his team a 76-69 cushion and sealed the win with two free throws nine seconds from the final buzzer.
He finished with a Week 1-high 31 points on five-for-five from three-point range and added four rebounds and two assists.
In the other game in Group H, Szolnoki Olaj made use of their experience and their home-court advantage to shake off the resilient EuroChallenge first-timers Rilski Sportlist, 73-66.
In Group C, Janis Timma scored less than half the points of Martinic but Ventspils would not have escaped with a 66-65 victory at Tartu Rock were it not for the Latvian internationals heroics in the clutch.
The 21-year-old small forward drilled three triples and scored 11 of his 15 points after Ventsplis fell behind 55-45 midway through the final frame, to instigate a comeback that looked highly improbable, to say the least.
Timma added nine rebounds and five assists to round-up his performance, while Ventspils also owe a lot to big man Ronalds Zakis, who collected a team-high 19 points and also grabbed nine boards.
In the other game in Group C, Södertälje Kings used a 10-0 run late in the third quarter to bend the resistance of visiting BC Zepter Vienna, 82-73, in what was the Austrian side's first taste of defeat this season.
Croatian forward Toni Bizaca paved the way for the Kings with 21 points and point guard John Roberson came up with 16 points and a game-high seven assists.
GROUP D: NEW ORDER
Several things have happened in the EuroChallenge in the two years that BC Kyiv, the club with the most participations in the competition, were absent.
One of them was that last season Gaz Metan Medias became the first Romanian side to reach the Last 16.
The Romanians provided Kyiv with a demonstration of their new potential during the group D clash between the two teams on Tuesday, as they used a big third quarter to seize control of the encounter and ride out of the Ukrainian capital with an 83-74 victory.
Medias point guard Willie Kemp led all scorers with 18 points and dished out seven assists, Jacob Koch chipped in with 14 points and Greek forward Giorgos Tsiaras came up with an all-round showing of 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.
In the other game in group D, Triumph Lyubertsy started poorly but found their rhythm after the second quarter and outpaced Inkognito Fashion Körmend BC 90-74.
Guard Courdon Higgins paced the Russian side with 20 points and five assists, Serbian big man Milovan Rakovic had 18 points and eight rebounds and Jeremy Chappell finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.
GROUP F: THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME
|Smiljan Pavic used his maturity to guide Krka home|
Group F was the only group that featured two home wins in the opening week of the EuroChallenge.
Tofas Bursa did their homework early against Fortress Jaszberenyi and bagged an 86-72 victory behind a dominant performance by shooting guard Marcus Denmon, who finished with 27 points on 10-for-18 from the floor and added four rebounds, four steals and two assists.
Turkish small forward Serhat Cetin, who won the EuroChallenge title with Besiktas in 2012, and Slovenian international Jure Balazic added 13 points apiece.
Meanwhile in Balazic's native country, 2011 champions Krka Novo Mesto had to dig deep in order to bend the resistance of Ural Ekaterinburg, eventually prevailing 80-75.
Veteran forward Jasmin Hukic was Krka's top performer with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
The hosts however would not have come back from a nine-point deficit were it not for big contributions late in the game by shooting guard Jaka Klobucar, who also had 16 points, and big man Smiljan Pavic who collected most of his 15 points and six rebounds in the clutch.
GROUP G: BEARS COME OUT OF HIBERNATION
Group G looked set to be the second case of complete home-court dominance until late on Wednesday night, when Bakken Bears suddenly growled into action and outscored their hosts ZZ Leiden 22-8 in the final frame of their encounter.
To conclude the Danish total recall from 13 points down, shooting guard Andreas Jakobsen split two free throws with just over two seconds left on the clock and Bakken snatched a 62-61 win, leaving their Dutch hosts wondering what went wrong.
Jakobsen finished with 13 points, the same as veteran big man Nicolai Iversen, who also picked up 13 rebounds to collect a double-double.
In the other game in Group G, Kataja Basket used the support of their fans to its full extent and came out guns blazing to grab a 46-28 lead over Cholet at the half-time interval.
The French side unleashed their assault in the second half but their Finnish hosts held on to celebrate a well-deserved 76-70 win.
Michael Morrison paved the way for the Finns with 22 points and six rebounds, and Renaldo Major chipped in with 14 points and five boards.