|The ensuing battle between Baris Ermis (pictured) and Lorenzo Williams promises to be an intriguing one|
The EuroChallenge Last 16 resumes on Tuesday after a short break and any participant who is caught off guard at this crucial point of the season might suffer severe consequences.
Gaz Metan Medias and JDA Dijon are entering their respective Tuesday games with their backs to the wall as they will abolish any chance of advancing to the quarter-final play-offs in case they do not succeed in registering a first win in the Last 16.
Bakken Bears Aarhus are also in a precarious position but their fate is a bit more complicated than that of the other two teams who currently stand at 0-3.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Tartu Rock and Royal Hali Gaziantep will punch their ticket to the play-offs should they emerge victorious from their respective Tuesday clashes, while Ural Ekaterinburg are also undefeated and in an advantageous situation but securing qualification as early as this week does not depend entirely on them.
In the second part of our Last 16 Week 4 preview, we break down the Tuesday encounters in Group K and Group L.
BK Ventspils (1-2) vs. Royal Hali Gaziantep (3-0)
Recent Form: Ventspils WLWWW - Gaziantep WWWWW
Key Match-Up: Lorenzo Williams vs. Baris Ermis
Williams is one of the EuroChallenge Iron Men, as he averages almost 33 minutes of playing time per game. The Ventspils point guard will need plenty of stamina on Tuesday to limit the action of his opposite number Baris, who has helped transform the fortunes of Gaziantep since arriving in early January.
Key Stat: Ventspils shoot 58.7% from two-point range on average as the best team in the competition in this aspect, but Gaziantep picked up a 72-61 win in the reverse fixture in Turkey largely because they bettered the Latvian side at their own game. Gaziantep went 25-of-40 from within the arc in that encounter while at the same time they allowed Ventspils to take a relatively few 28 shot attempts from two-point range, of which they hit 15.
Game Notes: Should they win on Tuesday, Gaziantep will secure their place in the quarter-final play-offs with two game days to spare in the Last 16. Ventspils have never defeated a Turkish team in the EuroChallenge. Kevin Joseph Foster is poised to make his first appearance with Ventspils on Tuesday.
|Courdon Higgins and Triumph Lyubertsy can this week put one foot in the next round of the EuroChallenge|
Triumph Lyubertsy (2-1) vs. JDA Dijon (0-3)
Recent Form: Triumph LWWWL - Dijon LWLLW
Key Match-Up: Courdon Higgins vs. Mykal Riley
Higgins is the second-leading scorer in the EuroChallenge and had 22 points and five assists in the reverse fixture, when Triumph won 68-66 in France. Riley averages 2.1 steals per game (third-best in the EuroChallenge) and represents Dijon's best chance to defend Higgins on ther wing.
Key Stat: A high-scoring game does not seem to be on the cards on Tuesday in the Moscow Region, as the two opponents have the second and third-best defence in the EuroChallenge. Triumph give up 68.8 points per game and Dijon only allow their opponent to score 68.3 points per night.
Game Notes: Dijon will be knocked out of the race for a spot in the quarter-finals in case they lose on Tuesday and history is not exactly on their side. The French club last won against a Russian team almost 10 years ago, in December 2004, losing on the five occasions they have met a Russian team since.
|Sharaud Curry is the leading scorer in the EuroChallenge but needs assistance from his Team TEHO Sport Kotka teammates if they are to remain alive in the competition|
Tsmoki Minsk (2-1) vs. Team TEHO Sport Kotka (1-2)
Recent Form: Minsk LLLWL - Kotka LWWWW
Key Match-Up: Demonte Harper vs. Sharaud Curry
Curry is the EuroChallenge leading scorer with an amazing 20.3 points per game, but in the reverse fixture Harper and the rest of the Minsk perimeter defence kept him to just 10 points and the Belarusian side picked up a very comfy 100-64 victory.
Key Stat: Minsk's big men continue to be dominant in the EuroChallenge and their team leads the competition in rebounds, with 44 boards per game. Kotka on the other side only bring down 31.9 boards per game and this handicap was part of their downfall in the reverse fixture, as Minsk out-rebounded them 45-27.
Game Notes: Minsk will secure a top-two finish in the group if they beat Kotka and at the same time Ural Ekaterinburg defeat Bakken Bears in Denmark. This combination of results would mean Minsk and Ekaterinburg take possession of both tickets to the play-offs from the group with two gamedays left in the Last 16.
Bakken Bears Aarhus (0-3) vs. Ural Ekaterinburg (3-0)
Recent Form: Bakken WLWWW - Ekaterinburg WWWWL
Key Match-Up: Chris Christoffersen vs. Aaron Mc Ghee
The two veteran centers clash heads once again in a match-up that what will undoubtedly be a treat for fans in Aarhus. Both big men have been rock solid for their respective teams this season and both picked up a double-double in points and rebounds in the reverse fixture.
Key Stat: Despite the fact Bakken do not take good care of the ball and commit 16.2 turnovers per game, in the reverse fixture they suffered worse whenever they actually managed to maintain possession. The Bears only shoot a low 46% from two-point range anyway, but in Russia Ekaterinburg kept them to a damning 38.8% and won the game 85-71.
Game Notes: Ekaterinburg will qualify to the play-offs already on Tuesday in case they beat Bakken and Minsk beat Kotka in the other game of the group. If Ekaterinburg win but Minsk lose, the Russian side will not be certain this week of a top-two finish in the group, despite the fact they will go top of the standings with a 4-0 record.