|27 January 2014|
|Polish international Michal Ignerski has only just arrived in Samara but is already a key factor for his team|
The third week of action in the Last 16 stage of the EuroChallenge tips off on Tuesday evening and concludes on Wednesday night.
With the margin for error reducing dramatically from this point onwards for any team that aspires to earn a place in the quarter-final play-offs, we break down the four match-ups across groups I and J this week.
Port Of Antwerp Giants (1-1) vs. Krasnye Krylia Samara (1-1)
Recent Form: Antwerp LWWLL - Krasnye Krylia LLLLW
Key Match-Up: Maxime De Zeeuw vs. Michal Ignerski
The battle between the Belgian and Polish power forwards is an added good reason to watch this clash and its outcome will definitely influence heavily the final result of the game. De Zeeuw is Antwerp's second-leading scorer and top rebounder, while Ignerski has taken on a similarly important role, despite only joining Krasnye Krylia two weeks ago.
Dominance on the glass is even more important than usual in this game, as both teams have won every game in the EuroChallenge so far when they out-rebounded their opponent. Antwerp bring down 36.4 boards per game and Krasnye Krylia an almost identical 36.1 rebounds per night.
The latest addition to the Krasnye Krylia roster, Ukrainian international Oleksiy Pecherov, is to make his debut with the Russian side on Tuesday. Antwerp have won their last six home games in the EuroChallenge, with their latest defeat at home dating back to November 2012, in a Regular Season clash with Telekom Baskets Bonn.
|Vilmantas Dilys has transformed the Tartu Rock frontcourt since joining the Estonian outfit |
Tartu University Rock (2-0) vs. Gaz Metan Medias (0-2)
Recent Form: Tartu WWWWW - Medias LWWLL
Key Match-Up: Vilmantas Dilys vs. Augustine Okosun
Dilys has transformed the Tartu frontcourt since joining the team midway through the Regular Season and now leads the Estonian side in both scoring and rebounds. Okosun, who is starting to make an impact after arriving at Medias approximately a month ago, is hoping to use his 2.10m frame and long arms to limit the action of the Lithuanian power forward.
Despite their contrasting win-loss record so far in Group I, the two sides are averaging surprisingly similar figures across most major statistical categories, but each one eclipses the other in a specific aspect. Tartu have a clear edge in rebounds, as the third-best team in the EuroChallenge in this respect with 39 boards per game (Medias average 32.9 rebounds) while the Romanian side are the second-best side in the competition in steals averaging 8.8 per game, exactly the double of Tartu's 4.4 steals per encounter.
The two sides met during the 2012/13 EuroChallenge Regular Season and Medias won both encounters. Tartu however are going into Tuesday's game on a six-game winning streak, the second-longest in the EuroChallenge this season.
|James White has been one of Reggio Emilia's main scoring weapons |
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (1-1) vs. Krka Novo Mesto (1-1)
Recent Form: Reggio Emilia WWLLL - Krka LWWLL
Key Match-Up: James White vs. Edo Muric
Both small forwards will need to make contributions close to their average figures offensively, while expending a great amount of energy on the defensive end to keep a lid on their opposite number. White averages 15.3 points and 2.9 assists per game, while Muric contributes a team-best 12.7 points and 5.4 rebounds.
Key Stat: Reggio Emilia shoot the ball at a competition-best 48.3% from the floor but on Tuesday night they are facing the best defence in the EuroChallenge. Krka give up only 65.8 points per game, as they come up with 9.1 steals per game, more than any other team this season.
Game Notes: Reggio Emilia are 4-of-4 at home, while Krka are 1-of-4 on the road. Christopher Booker of Krka has 312 career rebounds in the EuroChallenge and will leapfrog Fedor Likholitov to go in seventh place on the all-time rebounders' list if he collects at least four rebounds on Tuesday.
Cholet Basket (1-1) vs. Szolnoki Olaj (1-1)
Recent Form: Cholet LLLWL - Szolnoki LLLWL
Key Match-Up: John Cox vs. Justin Holiday
Following the departure of Terrell Stoglin, Cox has to assume even more weight offensively than his 11.3 points and 3.9 assists per game so far, but in Holiday he is facing an athletic winger who can play excellent defence while adding reliable long-range shooting on the other end of the floor.
Hitting a shot from any range while playing against Szolnoki can turn into an incredibly difficult task, as they allow opponents to shoot only 40.4% from the floor. On paper, this gives the Hungarian side an enormous advantage in this clash, as Cholet are converting only 44.8% of their shots from two-point range, the lowest field goal percentage among the 16 teams that made it to the second phase of EuroChallenge.
With the game taking place on Wednesday rather than on Tuesday, point guard Anthony Goods, who has replaced Stoglin on the Cholet roster, has a very good chance to make his debut with the French team. Goods only joined Cholet on Sunday but the club has stated that he is ready to play, provided his paperwork is processed on time.