|Milovan Rakovic makes a timely return from illness to the Triumph Lyubertsy lineup |
Seven of the eight encounters in Week 2 of the EuroChallenge Last 16 take place on Tuesday and action concludes on Wednesday night with a Scandinavian derby in Group L.
By the end of it, a minimum of 11 sides will have already suffered at least one defeat in this stage of the competition, and a minimum of three teams will record their first success after getting off to a losing start last week.
In the first part of our Last 16 Week 2 preview, we break down the match-ups in group K and group L.
Recent Form: Triumph LWWWW - Gaziantep LWWWW
Key Match-Up: Milovan Rakovic vs. Dejan Borovnjak
Rakovic is back from illness that kept him out of action last week just as Triumph needed a big body in the paint to make life difficult for Borovnjak, Gaziantep's top scorer and rebounder, and allow Cory Higgins and the rest of the Russian side's perimeter players to spend less energy on the defensive end.
Key Stat: Gaziantep were sharing the ball admirably even before Baris Ermis joined their roster, but the addition of the Turkish point guard has propelled them to the top of the assists-per-game table in the EuroChallenge, with 18.6 per game. Triumph is right behind them, dishing out 17.7 assists per game.
Game Notes: One of the clubs for whom Gaziantep's Ernest Bremer suited up during his long career was Triumph. The veteran had averaged 11.9 points and 3.8 assists per game to help the Russian side reach the EuroChallenge Final Four in 2009. More importantly, he shared the point guard position on that team with Vasiliy Karasev, in what was the Russian legend's last season as a player. Karasev took over as Triumph's head coach at the mid-point of the 2011/12 season.
Recent Form: Ventspils LWWLW - Dijon LWLLW
Key Match-Up: Janis Timma vs. Mykal Riley
The clash between these two athletic, all-round small forwards makes for a highly interesting subplot to what is already the very important story of a game between teams chasing their first win in the Last 16. Timma averages 11.9 points and is the sixth-leading rebounder in the EuroChallenge with 8.7 boards per game, while Riley averages 12.2 points and leads his team in steals and blocked shots.
Key Stat: Ventspils struggle from the foul line and the three-point arc, but lead the EuroChallenge in two-point field goal percentage, with 57.5%. Dijon claimed the dubious honour of the most turnover-prone team in the Last 16 last week, as they now average 16.1 turnovers per game.
Game Notes: The two clubs have never crossed paths before, but Ventspils have played against French opposition on four occasions since EuroChallenge 2009 and hold a 3-1 record, their only loss coming to BCM Gravelines in February 2011.
|Keith Benson Jr of Tsmoki Minsk is responsible forthe defending the paint for the best rebounding team in the competition|
Recent Form: Minsk LLLWL - Ekaterinburg WWWWW
Key Match-Up: Keith Benson Jr vs. Aaron Mc Ghee
Spectators of the game are in for an epic clash in the paint, as the two big men are the main reason these teams dominate battles on the glass in the EuroChallenge. Benson averages 7.2 rebounds and Mc Ghee averages 7.6 boards per game, but statistics do not reflect how effectively both of them use their imposing frames so that few loose balls will end up in opponent's hands.
Key Stat: Minsk lead the competition in scoring (82.7 ppg) and rebounds (45 rpg), and Ekaterinburg are right behind them in both categories, with 81 points and 41 rebounds per contest. Needless to say this is poised to be a high-scoring game featuring some exciting duels at the rim.
Game Notes: Point guard Tyrone Brazelton joined Minsk last week and will make on Tuesday his first EuroChallenge appearance in five years, after playing in four games with BK Ventspils in the 2008/09 season.
Recent Form: Bakken LLLLL - Kotka WLWLW
Key Match-Up: Kenneth Barker vs. Sharaud Curry
Barker is Bakken's second-best scorer with 11.7 points per game and also leads his team in assists, but on Tuesday he will have to concentrate on containing his opposite number at the defensive end. The Kotka point guard averages 20.8 points per game, the highest among all players whose teams are competing in the Last 16.
Key Stat: Kotka have the weakest defence among all 16 teams that remain in the competition, allowing 82.3 points per game. They are also sharing the ball less that any team in the EuroChallenge, only dishing out 11 assists per game. They make up for it though by shooting at a competition-best 39.2% from beyond the three-point arc.
Game Notes: You wait for a bus for half an hour and then two show up at the same time. A Danish and a Finnish club had not crossed paths in a FIBA Europe competition in the 21st century until Bakken was drawn in the same EuroChallenge Regular Season group with Kataja Basket this year. The Bears won both home and away games against Kataja and on Tuesday they are facing the other Finnish team that took part in this season's EuroChallenge.