|Anton Glazunov and Ural Ekaterinburg become one of three further teams to confirm their play-off spot this week |
The fifth week of action in the Last 16 has cleared up the picture to such an extent that only three tickets to the quarter-final play-offs remain up for grabs going into the final day in this phase, next Tuesday.
Ural Ekaterinburg and Tsmoki Minsk in Group L, together with Triumph Lyubertsy in Group K earned a play-off berth this week, the latter two despite the fact they actually lost their respective games.
The trio join Tartu University Rock and Royal Hali Gaziantep, the two sides which had already secured qualification during Last 16 Week 4.
Gaziantep, who gave one more demonstration of their die-hard attitude this week as they came from behind to defeat Triumph 64-59, are now the only undefeated team in the Last 16 and have of course clinched top spot in Group K.
The winner of the Krasnye Krylia vs. Port of Antwerp Giants clash next week will take the remaining spot from Group I.
Meanwhile Szolnoki Olaj, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia and Krka Novo Mesto will battle it out until the final buzzer of Week 6 for the two tickets from the hotly-disputed Group J, with each of the three contenders depending entirely on themselves.
There have been several more twists and turns in Week 5 of the EuroChallenge Last 16 and here we take a look at some of its most noteworthy events and figures.
Keep An Eye On:
Despite their 82-79 win over Bakken Bears Aarhus this week, Team TEHO Sport Kotka are out of contention for the play-offs and will play their last game in this edition of the EuroChallenge next Tuesday. Incidentally, that is the same day that Joonas Lehtoranta turns 20 and a look back at what he's achieved in European competition this year will probably be the ideal gift for his birthday. The young Finnish shooting guard culminated a season of steady rise on Tuesday as he collected a season-high 13 points and five assists and also added two rebounds to help Kotka hold on against the Bears. His latest performance leaves little doubt as to the indispensable role he will have on the team the next time they appear in Europe, and fuels Finland's great hopes about the future of their national team.
Blast From The Past:
|Welcome back to Reggio Emilia Angelo Gigli |
To proclaim 'welcome back, Angelo Gigli' might sound as an exaggeration, since the 30-year-old forward/center was not out of action prior to returning to childhood club Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia, last week. But in his EuroChallenge debut on Tuesday he spent 20 minutes on the floor, more than in any game with his previous club EA7 Emporio Armani Milano, and showed that he can still make significant contributions to his team if he gets the chance. Reggio Emilia prevailed 82-65 over Cholet with Gigli their highest-rated player in terms of efficiency (19) as he collected eight points, a game-high nine rebounds and added two assists, two steals and one block.
Stat Of The Week:
The two best offensive teams in the EuroChallenge went head-to-head this week and, somehow, the combined score was a meagre 134 points, as Ural Ekaterinburg edged out Tsmoki Minsk 69-65. The final offensive output of each of the teams was obviously their respective season-low, while it was also the first time either one of these two sides scored less than 74 points during this EuroChallenge season. The Russian team averaged 83.4 points per game and the Belarusians averaged 86.2 points going into the Tuesday clash and despite this atypical result they still lead the competition in scoring as the only two sides to average more than 80 points per encounter (82.1 and 84.3 points, respectively). "Ural plays very good defence, very tough and close, and it gave them an advantage," Minsk head coach Donaldas Kairys explained after the game, and added: "It's complicated to play against them, because all their players can score three-pointers. It's hard to get used to the fact that their big men score from long range."
Hitting The Headlines:
The impressive winning streak of Gaziantep has turned the focus away from what Port of Antwerp Giants accomplished in Group I this week. The Belgian side managed to overcome the important absences of team leader Maxime De Zeeuw and center Yannick Driesen to hand Tartu University Rock their first defeat in the Last 16, 64-59. Belgian international Jean-Marc Mwema stepped up with his best display this season, a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, to lead the hosts to victory. Some might say that Antwerp's win has no real repercussion, since they still need to beat Krasnye Krylia in Samara next week in order to qualify, but that is far from the truth. Antwerp will be playing on the road, in what is likely to develop into a very tight encounter that can go down to the wire, and there can be a world of difference in the final minutes between being constrained
|"They ask if we can play in a higher league - for sure, we can" - Ural Ekaterinburg head coach Oleg Okulov|
to chase a five-point differential and being in a position where they simply need to win and even a single point margin will do the trick.
Quotes Of The Week:
Krasnye Krylia Player Victor Keyru:
"After Anton Ponkrashov's departure, we do not think about who is going to become the next leader on the team. The most important thing right now is to win in every game. If you ask me, I am optimistic about the future. I hope everything will be great in our team. With this kind of roster we can achieve a lot."
Ekaterinburg Head Coach Oleg Okulov:
"I'd like to thank everybody who came to support us and those who are doing their best to develop men's basketball in Ekaterinburg. Such games demonstrate that our spectators are interested in it even when minimal capital is invested. They ask if we can play in a higher league - for sure, we can. Not for the first places, but we can."