|Oliver Stevic and Royal Hali Gaziantep have made up for a low-scoring offence with high-pressue defence|
The EuroChallenge last 16 concluded on Tuesday and we delve into the stat sheets to discover the figures behind the teams that punched their tickets to the quarter-final play-offs.
There can be no doubt that Royal Hali Gaziantep stole the limelight in the EuroChallenge last 16, as they were the only team to complete this stage undefeated.
Their impressive run to the top of the Group K standings with a perfect 6-0 record would suggest they were in a position of utter dominance in this phase of the EuroChallenge, but a closer look at their stat lines reveals a different picture.
The Turkish side had two glaring disadvantages in comparison to the other seven teams which also qualified to the EuroChallenge quarter-final play-offs.
Gaziantep had the lowest-scoring offence among those eight teams, managing only 74.3 points per game (down from 76 points per game in the regular season) and were the weakest side on the glass, averaging just 31 rebounds per game (32 in the regular season), which is actually the lowest figure in the entire last 16, including the four teams that only collected three wins between them.
In addition to this, Gaziantep's three-point shooting percentage dropped to 35.5% in the last 16, from 41.8% during the regular season.
So how did head coach Jurij Zdovc and his players manage to enjoy a two-month unbeaten stretch across all competitions since late December?
Their success is primarily a fruit of an excellent collective job in hiding their weaknesses as a team.
|Last year Ümit Sonkol and Pinar Karsiyaka rode to the final on the best defence in the competition|
On offence, the Turkish side improved their shot selection inside the arc and raised their two-point shooting percentage from 50.4% during the regular season to 53.5%, the third-highest in the last 16.
They kept their assists to similar levels as they dished out 18 final passes on average (18.8 in the regular season) while reducing their turnovers from 13.7 to 12.4 per game.
Gaziantep's biggest weapon however and the driving force behind their winning streak was their outstanding ability to control the pace of the game and adjust it to a rhythm of their liking.
Despite their disadvantage on the boards and the inevitable easy second-chance points this brings to their opponents, Gaziantep only allow their rivals to put up a meagre 55.8 shots per game.
While shots-per-possession data is not available, if we contrast this figure with that of Ural Ekaterinburg, who allow their opponents to take almost 14 shots more per game (69.2), it becomes easy to comprehend why Gaziantep only gave up 66 points per game during the last 16 and had the best defence at this stage of the competition.
Gaziantep have hugely improved on their already good defensive showing of the regular season, when they allowed 70.5 points per game, with a solid display reminiscent of that of fellow Turkish side Pinar Karsiyaka last season, who rode the best defence of the EuroChallenge into the competition's final.
TSMOKI-ING HOT OFFENCE
|Vitali Liutych and Tsmoki Minsk are at the other end of the spectrum to Gaziantep, with the hottest offence in the competition|
'The team who scores the most point wins' might be an over-simplistic view of basketball, but there is no denying the simple fact that the top-six offensive teams in the last 16 all qualified to the play-offs.
Tsmoki Minsk have developed into the highest-scoring team in the EuroChallenge as they improved to 84.7 points per game from 79.8 during the regular season.
Their surge is mainly owed to their top-scoring center Keith Benson hitting his shots at an excellent 61.7% from the floor (17.3 points per game), as well to the fact that Minsk were more selective when shooting from long range and their three-point percentage rose to 35.5% in the last 16 from 33.2% during the regular season.
Triumph Lyubersty, who had the best offence in the regular season, dropped from 82.3 to 76.5 points per game in the last 16.
The Russian team dished out less assists in this stage, 18.3 compared to 16.9 on average in the regular season, as their three main offensive options, Courdon Higgins, Kyle Landry and Milovan Rakovic assumed an even heavier load in the last 16 and combined for 55.9% of their team's total points, while they had scored a combined 50.6% of Triumph's points in the regular season.
Another reason though behind Triumph's sharp drop on offence appears to be Gaziantep's influence, as the two teams coincided in Group K.
Triumph placed much more emphasis on the other end of the floor in the last 16 and now have the second-best defence in the EuroChallenge, giving up only 68.6 points to their opponents per game.
Ural Ekaterinburg and Tartu University Rock showed a remarkable consistency in their offensive habits and both achieved a slight increase in output.
The Russian side rose from 80.3 points to 80.8 points per game, while Tartu scored 80.4 on average in the last 16, up from 79.7 points per game in the regular season.
Tartu had the best field goal percentage during the regular season as they had converted 48.1% of their shots from the floor but had a slight dip in the last 16 and hit 47% of their attempts.
As you might have guessed, Minsk is now the sharpest-shooting team in the EuroChallenge, improving to a 47.9% field goal percentage from 47.4% in the regular season.
Krasnye Krylia also took a small plunge as they now score 80 points per game and had averaged 82.2 points in the regular season.
They have no real reason to be alarmed though as they converted 47.8% of their shots, a minimal change compared to a 48.2% field goal percentage in the regular season.
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia completed the top-six best offensive teams in the last 16 as their average output rose to 77.7 points per game from 75.5 during the regular reason, a change directly linked to their improved two-point shooting.
The Italians were already hitting an excellent 51.1% of their shots from within the arc in the regular season but rose to 53.9% after the last 16.
WHO DO I NEED ON MY TEAM?
|Keith Benson Jr was statistically the most consistent player in the last 16|
The Italian international reached an efficiency index rating of 33 as he collected 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals.
There is one player however who performed with metronome-like consistency throughout the last 16.
If we exclude his final game of the last 16 against Bakken Bears Aarhus, when he picked up a knock and only spent seven minutes on the floor, Minsk center Keith Benson accumulated in every single game an efficiency rating of between 23 and 25, for an average rating of - you guessed it - 24 during the last 16.
Benson contributed 15 points and 7.7 rebounds in the regular season and despite the unfortunate incident in the game against Bakken, he is averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds after the last 16.
Following the Minsk big man, the three next most consistent performers in the last 16 were Ekaterinburg veteran Aaron Mc Ghee, Reggio Emilia small forward James White and Krasnye Krylia power forward Michal Ignerski.
Mc Ghee had three outstanding games where he registered an efficiency index rating of 25 or more, while White also had three games in which his individual efficiency was rated at 22 or more.
Furthermore, White's performance in the final game against Krka was rated at 31, which is the last 16's joint second-best in statistical terms after that of Cinciarini.
Ignerski on the other hand, who only joined the Samara side during the winter break, delivered three performances that were rated at 19 or higher, as he averaged 17.8 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Russian team.
Another late addition to the EuroChallenge who had an immediate impact in the last 16 was Gaziantep's Ermis Baris.
The Turkish point guard has featured in only five games but still managed to put in two fantastic displays of an efficiency rating of 24 and 30, respectively.
Baris averages 7.8 assists per game, which would turn him into the leader of the competition in this category if we did not adjust for games played.