|13 January 2014|
EuroChallenge action resumes on Tuesday after an almost month-long break with the opening day of the Last 16, which inaugurates the business end of the season.
All 16 remaining contenders start the second phase of the competition with a clean slate, divided into four groups of four teams each.
We break down the four games on the opening night of the Last 16 in Group I and Group J.
|Krasnye Krylia will continue their EuroChallenge campaign without Bracey Wright, who departed for Hapoel Jerusalem|
Krasnye Krylia Samara vs. Tartu University Rock
Recent Form: Samara WWWLL - Tartu WWLLW
Key Match-Up: Aaron Miles vs. Vincent Simpson
The two point guards are of almost identical size and built and lead their respective teams in both assists and steals (Miles averages a EuroChallenge-best seven assists per game) but their approach on offence is quite different, as Simpson takes more than double the shots than Miles, who is more of an organising playmaker.
Key Stat: Krasnye Krylia scored 82.2 points per game on average during the Regular Season, almost tied with Triumph Lyubertsy, which was the best offensive team with 83.3 points per game. The Samara side however have now lost guard Bracey Wright, who was contributing a team-high 17.8 points per game. Tartu on the other hand lead the competition in field goal percentage, converting 48.1% of their shots from floor.
Game Notes: Artem Zabelin and Julian Wright have both missed the last two Krasnye Krylia games through injury and neither of the two is likely to be declared fit to play on Tuesday. Power forward Janar Talts, who now plays for Tartu, was on the books of Krasnye Krylia during the 2010/11 season. If he features in the Tuesday game, the Estonian international will play his 68th game in the EuroChallenge and draw level with William Thomas and Sergey Toporov in fifth place on the table of players with most EuroChallenge appearances.
Port of Antwerp Giants vs. Gaz Metan Medias
Recent Form: PO Antwerp WWWLL - Medias WLLWW
Key Match-Up: Maxime De Zeeuw vs. Kyle Shiloh
One is a power forward and the other a guard, but they both lead their respective teams in both scoring and rebounds, setting the pace for their team-mates. The Belgian international averaged 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in the Regular Season, collecting a double-double in four out of the six games, while Shiloh averaged 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Key Stat: PO Antwerp lead the EuroChallenge in free-throw percentage, with an excellent 84.5% from the charity stripe. They are not likely to take many trips to the line on Tuesday though, as Medias commit only 16.8 fouls per game, second only to Krasnye Krylia (who commit only 15.3 fouls per game) among all the teams that have made it to the Last 16 of the competition.
Game Notes: Both sides brought in a new frontcourt player each in December, who is poised to make his EuroChallenge debut on Tuesday. Ryan Pearson contributed 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds on average in his two games with PO Antwerp in the Belgian Ethias league, while Nigerian center Augustine Okosun has already played three games with Medias in the Romanian LNB, averaging five points and 6.3 rebounds.
Krka Novo Mesto vs. Cholet Basket
Recent Form: Krka WWLLL - Cholet LLLWL
Key Match-Up: Jaka Klobucar vs. Terrell Stoglin
Klobucar posted his best display so far this season on Sunday night, as he finished with 21 points and six rebounds in Krka's 80-67 defeat at Partizan Belgrade. Stoglin on the other hand is seemingly affected by Cholet's drop in performance in the French league during the last two months, and is coming off a season-low eight points on 27% shooting against Nancy at the weekend. The American point guard had scored at least 12 points in each of Cholet's six games in the EuroChallenge Regular Season.
Key Stat: This game is highly unlikely to evolve into a shoot-out, as it is a clash between two of the three stingiest teams in the EuroChallenge. Krka only allowed 66.3 points per game on average during the Regular Season, while Cholet only gave up 66.2 points per game.
Game Notes: For all their history in the EuroChallenge and in the FIBA Europe competitions that preceded it, the two clubs have never played against each other. Cholet have previously travelled to Slovenia only to take on Olimpija Ljubljana or Pivovarna Lasko, in the Euroleague and the Saporta Cup.
|Troy Bell has been one of Reggio Emilia's key players in the season so far|
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia vs. Szolnoki Olaj
Recent Form: Reggio Emilia LWWLW - Szolnoki WLWLL
Key Match-Up: Troy Bell vs. Willie Warren
Bell has been amazingly consistent in Reggio Emilia's backcourt this season, averaging 12.3 points in the EuroChallenge and 12.9 points per game in the Italian Serie A. Warren's average figures might not be impressive in themselves, but he is Szolnoki's reference at the guard spots and will take the lion's share of shots on offence if he is on a good day.
Key Stat: Szolnoki have depth in the frontcourt and although they don't always put those big bodies to good use, they still average 37.2 rebounds per game and score most of their points inside. Reggio Emilia are the least effective on the glass among all teams that made it to the Last 16, bringing down just 31.2 boards per contest.
Game Notes: Rimantas Kaukenas is expected to make his long-awaited debut in the EuroChallenge, after a string of inspiring performances in the Serie A since joining Reggio Emilia in December. Serbian forward Strahinja Milosevic is also poised for a EuroChallenge debut, after averaging 10.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in the three ABA Adriatic league games he has already played for Szolnoki so far.