|Maxime De Zeeuw sat out recent domestic action but is expected to play on Tuesday night|
Judgement Day is upon us in the EuroChallenge Last 16, as the three remaining quarter-final berths will meet their rightful owners on Tuesday, the last day of group action in the competition.
Group I and Group J understandably attract the lion's share of attention on the final day of the Last 16, as all of the three last play-off spots will be determined there.
In the first part of this week's preview, we break down the Tuesday match-ups in these two groups.
Krasnye Krylia Samara (3-2) vs. Port of Antwerp Giants (3-2)
Recent Form: Samara WLLWW - Antwerp LWLWW
Key Match-Up: Michal Ignerski vs. Ryan Pearson
The Polish international had only been in Samara for just over a week when he paved the way for Krasnye Krylia's 75-71 victory in the reverse fixture in Belgium with a game-high 18 points, also adding seven rebounds. Pearson had 17 points and nine boards in that game and, as both forwards lead their respective teams in scoring in the EuroChallenge, there is little to suggest their particular match-up will not be decisive in tipping the balance in one or the other direction on Tuesday.
Key Stat: Krasnye Krylia have the slight edge in all major statistical categories with two exceptions, in points allowed and free throw percentage. While Antwerp are only marginally a better team defensively (they give up 73.3 points per game, Krasnye Krylia give up 74 points per game), accuracy from the foul line could prove vital in a game of this nature that could go down to the wire. Krasnye Krylia only convert 67.3% of their free throws, the lowest percentage in the EuroChallenge Last 16, together with JDA Dijon.
Game Notes: This is a straightforward do-or-die clash in which the winning side will finish second in the group (behind Tartu) and punch their ticket to the quarter-final play-offs, while the losing side will finish in third spot and miss out. The point differential is of of no importance, a win by any margin will suffice for either side. Belgian international Maxime De Zeeuw, who is Antwerp's second-leading scorer and top rebounder sat out the Giants' weekend game in the Ethias League but will feature in this decisive clash on Tuesday, after a 15-day long lay-off due to injury. Krasnye Krylia center Artem Zabelin, who had missed the reverse fixture, is back in the Samara line-up.
|Janar Talts had his best performance to date in the EuroChallenge the previous time Rock clashed with Medias|
Gaz Metan Medias (0-5) vs. Tartu University Rock (4-1)
Recent Form: Medias WLLLL - Tartu WWWLW
Key Match-Up: Slavisa Bogavac vs. Janar Talts
In the reverse fixture in Estonia, Tartu took the game inside, out-rebounded Medias 40 to 27 and cruised to a comfy 97-67 win as Talts delivered his best performance of the season, collecting a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists. Bogavac is Medias's second-best scorer and leads his team in rebounds and will have to help even more in the paint if the Romanian team are to hold their own on the glass.
Key Stat: Despite their unfavourable position in the standings, Medias shoot the ball at a more than respectable 44% from the floor. In Tartu however, they are going up against the best team in the EuroChallenge in field goal percentage, as the Estonians convert 47.9% of their shots from the floor. Six of Media's seven losses in the competition so far came when their opponent had a higher shooting percentage on the night.
Game Notes: Tartu have Gert Dorbek nursing an ankle injury and Vilmantas Dilys struggling with lower back pains but neither player's condition is serious and they should be able to feature in the game if needed. Should they win on Tuesday, Tartu will set a new club W/L record in their long history in FIBA Europe competitions. Their best showing so far was in the 2008 edition of Eurocup, when they finished in fourth place with a 9-4 record.
|A good performance from Edo Muric is paramount to Krka Novo Mesto advancing this week|
Krka Novo Mesto (3-2) vs. Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (3-2) (watch LIVE on www.livebasketball.tv)
Recent Form: Krka WWWWL - Reggio Emilia LLLWW
Key Match-Up: Edo Muric vs. James White
The strength of both these teams is in the backcourt and their respective starters at the '3' spot play an enormously important role on both ends of the floor. Both Muric and White lead their teams in scoring but their performances are not always consistent. If one of the two delivers according to their potential on Tuesday, his side will gain an enormous strategic advantage.
Key Stat: Krka have an advantage in size as their roster's average height is 2.01m, compared to Reggio Emilia's 1.98m. Most of all however they do a good job in closing down and fighting for the loose balls collectively and are rewarded with 37.5 rebounds per game, while the Italian side brings down only 31.2 boards per night, the second-lowest in the EuroChallenge Last 16. In the reverse fixture, Krka committed 15 turnovers (2.8 above season average) while Reggiana only had eight (2.4 below their season average).
Game Notes: The team that wins this clash will advance to the quarter-final play-offs. Reggio Emilia are the only of the two that could qualify even if they lose, but that would require Szolnoki Olaj to lose to Cholet in the other game of the group. The Italian team have won only two of their 15 games on the road this season, between EuroChallenge and Serie A League. Reggio Emilia captain Andrea Cinciarini, who missed the last two EuroChallenge games due to injury, is back in action and will feature on Tuesday.
|Rudy Jomby needs to set the record straight following one of his quietest performances the last time Cholet played Szolnok |
Szolnoki Olaj (3-2) vs. Cholet Basket (1-4)
Recent Form: Szolnoki WWLLW - Cholet WLLLW
Key Match-Up: Justin Holiday vs. Rudy Jomby
Holiday came up with a season-high 20 points in the reverse fixture in France to clinch the win, while Jomby, who averages 10.8 points per game and leads Cholet in steals, had one of his most discreet nights. The French small forward will need to do much better on both ends of the floor against his opposite number for Cholet to stand any chance of upsetting their hosts.
Key Stat: Szolnoki's offence does not exactly set the EuroChallenge ablaze as they average 75.2 points per game, but they shoot the ball much better than Cholet, as they hit 51% of their shots from within the arc. The French side only convert 44.5% of their attempts from two-point range, by far the worse among the teams in the EuroChallenge Last 16, and score 73.5 points on average.
Game Notes: Szolnoki will punch their ticket to the quarter-finals if they win on Tuesday, regardless of the result in the clash between Krka and Reggio Emilia. The Hungarian side will also qualify if they lose and Reggio Emilia wins in Slovenia. Marton Bader, with illness, and Willie Warren, with an ankle injury, both sat out Szolnoki's win over Igokea in the ABA Adriatic league at the weekend and are doubtful for the Tuesday game. Veteran guard Eric Chatfield was reinstated in the Cholet squad at the weekend after almost a month, replacing Torey Thomas on the roster.