|14 March 2014|
|Courdon Higgins and Triumph Lyubertsy were on-song on Thursday, breaking two EuroChallenge play-off records|
Thursday saw three teams sweeping their respective opponents 2-0 in the quarter-final play-offs to punch their ticket to the EuroChallenge Final Four.
Triumph Luybersty completed the clean sweep of Ural Ekaterinburg in the most comfortable fashion imaginable, as they won 110-67 at home in Game 2.
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia brought the title defence of reigning champions Krasnye Krylia to an abrupt end by edging out the Russian team in the second game of the series in Russia, 73-71.
Royal Hali Gaziantep meanwhile followed a similar pattern in both games against Tsmoki Minsk and prevailed by the thinnest of margins on Thursday on the road, 68-67, just as they had done two days previously in Turkey.
The only series that will go into the deciding third game is the one between Tartu University Rock and Szolnoki Olaj, since the Hungarians prevailed 80-73 in Game 2 at home.
Tartu have the advantage of playing the crucial tie-breaker at home next Tuesday.
We have a look back at some noteworthy events and figures of the three play-off series that were completed on Thursday.
Triumph Lyubertsy pulverised two EuroChallenge records on Thursday with their 110-67 rout of fellow Russian side Ekaterinburg. Vasiliy Karasev's team, which had already hit the century mark when there were 5:59 left to play in the encounter, have overtaken Virtus Bologna for most points scored in a EuroChallenge quarter-final clash. The Italian side had defeated Telekom Baskets Bonn 106-91 in Game 3 of their play-offs series in 2009. Triumph's second record is obviously the 43-point margin of victory, which will probably prove impossible to surpass in any quarter-final tie in the future. The previous biggest gap stood at 34 points and was shared by two Spanish clubs. In 2006, a Joventut Badalona side coached by Aito Reneses and led by a young Rudy Fernandez thumbed Lokomotiv Rostov 88-54 in the first game of their series. The following year, the Akasvayu Girona side of coach Svetislav Pesic which featured an up-and-coming center by the name of Marc Gasol, routed Panionios Athens 83-49 in Game 3. It is worth pointing out that Bologna, Badalona and Girona all went on to win the title that same year they established their respective records.
|Rimantas Kaukenas came up with his best offensive performance of the season when it mattered most |
Blast From The Past:
Four missed shots from the floor and three turnovers was the sum of Reggio Emilia's offensive efforts during the initial four minutes of their game at Krasnye Krylia Samara, sparking fears among their fans that the Italian side were about to deliver one more of their inexplicably below-par displays in a road game this season. They were only trailing 5-0 but it was obvious they needed someone to calm the troops and inspire some self-confidence, and the eldest player on the court decided to step up and show the youngsters how it's done. Rimantas Kaukenas knocked down his first shot in the game, a three-pointer from the left wing, and went on to sink two more triples in successive possessions, making it 9-5 for the visitors. The spell was broken, Reggio Emilia knew they can play on the road just as well as they do at home and the 37-year-old Lithuanian guard finished with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting, registering a team-high efficiency rating of 21. Not bad at all for a veteran who had to play a total of a highly-demanding 64 minutes within less than 48 hours.
Stat Of The Day:
Having already accomplished the feat of being among the four players in this EuroChallenge season (the rest being Sharaud Curry, Goran Martinic and Tai Wesley) to have scored more than 30 points in a single game, Courdon Higgins must have been eager to set a new challenge for himself on Thursday. So the Triumph swingman got the chronometer running ahead of tip-off against Ekaterinburg and hit his 32nd point, on his sixth triple in the game, just as he had completed his 21st minute on the floor in the quarter-final. That rate of productivity translates into an amazing 1.5 points per minute. Higgins stayed in the game approximately a further three minutes without scoring, which means his points/minute ratio fell to 1.35 but, even so, had he played for the entire 40 minutes, he would have theoretically scored 54 points at this rate. The American winger collected his 32 points on 6-of-7 from three-point range, but only 6-for-14 from within the arc. Triumph scored an eye-popping 52 points in the paint and got 34 points from their bench players. Their 28 assists have tied BC Kyiv's record for most final passes during 40 minutes of play this season. Royal Hali Gaziantep had 29 assists in their win away at Krasnye Krylia in the season opener, but that game had gone into overtime.
|Lady Luck has been smiling on Jure Zdovc and his team in the past week|
Hitting The Headlines:
Gaziantep are a club that was promoted to the Turkish top flight only last summer and earning a spot in the Final Four in their first ever participation in a European competition is a remarkable achievement. It has been somewhat overshadowed however by the fact that Reggio Emilia, which earned promotion from the Italian Lega due (second division) in the summer of 2012, have managed to knock out the reigning EuroChallenge champions. "I am proud that we are advancing to the Final Four, even though just three years ago we played in second division. We have made a big step forward, and this step is a great historical moment for our club. In the Final Four games we will try to play in a way that will be remembered by our fans for years to come," the Italian side's head coach Massimiliano Menetti said on Thursday.
Quote Of The Day:
"The result could have gone another way and Minsk could have won this series 2-0. But without luck there's no basketball. And this week we were a little bit more fortunate than Tsmoki," Royal Hali Gaziantep head coach Jure Zdovc commented sportingly after his team's 68-67 win at Tsmoki Minsk.