|27 January 2014|
|Kyle Landry (left) will be a key component to Triumph's chance of victory when they travel to Ventspils|
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 K and L this week.
BK Ventspils (1-1) vs. Triumph Lyubertsy (1-1)
Recent Form: Ventspils WLWWW - Triumph WWWWL
Key Match-Up: Ronalds Zakis vs. Kyle Landry
Even if Courdon Higgins, the third-leading scorer in the EuroChallenge, manages to score near or above his season-average 20 points for Triumph from the perimeter, the all-out body combat under the rim could still hold the key to this game. Zakis is averaging a team-high 13.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while Landry 14.3 points and 7.4 boards per night.
A somewhat simplistic view would suggest that whichever team takes less shots from beyond the three-point arc will stand a better chance to win. Ventspils convert a very poor 29.1% of their three-point attempts, but their shooting percentage surges to a EuroChallenge-high 58.7% from 2-point range. Triumph's 51.6% from the same range might not seem as impressive, but the Russian team achieve this percentage on 45.5 two-point shot attempts per game, compared to Ventspils' 30.9 attempts on average.
Shooting guard Evgeny Voronov is poised to make his debut with Triumph after joining from CSKA Moscow last week. Triumph have used 11 different players in their starting five so far in the EuroChallenge, as Jeremy Chappell has been the only one with a guaranteed starter's spot.
|Terrance Campabell was quiet on the weekend and will look to rectify that when he goes out on the court on Tuesday|
SASP JDA Dijon (0-2) vs. Royal Hali Gaziantep (2-0)
Recent Form: Dijon LLWLW - Gaziantep WWWWW
Key Match-Up: Terrance Campbell vs. Baris Ermis
The two point guards are coming off discreet displays at the weekend but on Tuesday their respective teams will ask them to stay on the floor for close to, or over 25 minutes, and do a bit of everything. Ermis has helped transform the fortunes of Gaziantep in the past month and averaged 15.5 points and 10 assists in his two EuroChallenge games so far, while Campbell is Dijon's driving force and dishes out a team-high 2.3 assists to go with his 9.8 points per game.
Dijon only score 68.8 points per game, tied with Ventspils for the least productive offence among all teams that have reached the Last 16, while Gaziantep score a much more presentable 75.8 points per game. Dijon are slightly better on defence, allowing a competition second-best 66.6 points per game, compared to Gaziantep giving up 69.8 points to their opponents on average.
Should they win at Dijon, Gaziantep will improve to 3-0 in the Last 16 and will become the first team on its maiden season in Europe to have got off to such a perfect start at this stage of the competition.
|Keith Benson Jr has developed into one of the talking points of this year's EuroChallenge|
Bakken Bears Aarhus (0-2) vs. Tsmoki Minsk (1-1)
Recent Form: Bakken LLLLW - Minsk LLWLL
Key Match-Up: Chris Christoffersen vs. Keith Benson Jr.
Christoffersen, with the help of fellow veteran Nicolai Iversen, will need to contain Benson, the main exponent of Minsk's dominance in the paint. The Minsk center averages a team-high 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game. Christoffersen leads the Bears in rebounds, with 7.6 boards per game, and averages 12.4 points and 1.3 blocked shots per contest.
Key Stat: Minsk have the most productive offence in the EuroChallenge, with 84.4 points per game, and also grab a competition-best 43.9 rebounds a night. Bakken score a decent 75 points per game and can hold their own on the glass, as they collect 37.8 rebounds per game.
This will be Bakken's ninth game in this edition of the EuroChallenge, a threshold they have never crossed before in a European competition. The Bears' previous longest campaign came in the 2005 FIBA Europe Cup, when they won five of their eight games in total.
|An enticing battle looks set to ensue when Anton Glazunov(above) matches up to Sharaud Curry|
Team TEHO Sport Kotka (1-1) vs. Ural Ekaterinburg (2-0)
Recent Form: Kotka WLWWL - Ekaterinburg WWWWW
Key Match-Up: Sharaud Curry vs. Anton Glazunov
Two opposing, but equally effective styles collide in this highly intriguing match-up at the point guard spot. Curry averages a EuroChallenge second-best 20.7 points and 6.1 assists per game, while the Russian playmaker dishes out a competition-high 7.4 assists per game to go with his 12.1 points.
Despite the fact that their difference in size in minimal (the Kotka roster's average height is 1.96m and Ekaterinburg's 1.97m), there is an abysmal gap in rebounds. Ekaterinburg bring down 42 boards per game, second only to Minsk in the EuroChallenge, while Kotka average 31.6 rebounds per contest.
Ekaterinburg lost their opening game in the Regular Season but have since won seven games in a row, the longest winning streak in this year's EuroChallenge. Both Kotka and Ekaterinburg have shown character in tight situations, as they both have emerged victorious in four out of five occasions where their game was decided by a five-point margin or smaller.