|16 January 2014|
|Erjon Kastrati is still only 19 but is finding regular minutes playing for Krka |
The Last 16 of the EuroChallenge tipped off this week with an upset, as Tartu University Rock stunned reigning champions Krasnye Krylia 75-74 on the road in the opening game.
While this early shock in Group I did not set the tone for the remainder of the Week 1 encounters, as most home teams and/or favourites prevailed eventually, it did serve as a timely reminder that nothing comes easy in this phase of the competition, where all 16 remaining teams hope to clinch a spot in the quarter-finals play-offs.
We take a look at some of the most notable events or facts that came to pass during the opening week of the Last 16.
Keep An Eye On:
The 19-year-old Erjon Kastrati stayed on the floor for 22 minutes in Krka Novo Mesto's 80-63 win over Cholet and while he did not have his best game, getting this much playing time in a Last 16 encounter is an enormous accomplishment in itself for a player his age. The young shooting guard went 2-for-7 from the floor and finished with four points, four rebounds and one steal. Beyond the stat lines, he once again showcased the hassle and fighting spirit which have earned him a place in Krka's rotation. Kastrati made his national team debut last summer at the U20 European Championship in Estonia and was even included in Slovenia's preliminary squad for EuroBasket 2013. With the experience he is gaining this season, do not be surprised if he shines bright for Slovenia in the coming summer's U20 Championship in Greece.
Blast From The Past:
|Rimantas Kaukenas announced his arrival in the EuroChallenge with an index rating of 20, coming off the bench for Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia |
Rimantas Kaukenas, who turns 37 in April, made sure his EuroChallenge debut would steal the limelight by registering a team-high efficiency index rating of 20 in Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia's 90-68 win over Szolnoki Olaj on Tuesday. The 36-year-old Lithuanian guard came off the bench and contributed 19 points, three assists and three steals in 23 minutes on the floor. Kaukenas, undoubtedly thanks to his enormous experience and the fact he's spent many years in Italy, has been highly influential in the four Serie A games he's played since joining Reggio Emilia in December and, provided he stays fit, there is nothing to suggest he won't be as influential until the end of the season.
Stat Of The Week:
Tsmoki Minsk scored 35 points during the third quarter of their 100-64 triumph on the road against Team TEHO Sport Kotka on Wednesday, to improve by one point on the previous record for most points in one period (BC Kyiv had scored 34 points in the second frame of their 102-64 win over Körmend in the last game of the Regular Season). Minsk managed to pick up a century in this game despite the fact they had struggled in the first quarter, scoring only 17 points and trailing by six. However, once they started making good use of their size advantage over their hosts the buckets just kept coming, as they scored almost half their points, 48, from within the paint.
|Like Kaukenas, Baris Ermis was also making a EuroChallenge debut this week, moving from Fenerbahce to Royal Hali Gaziantep, dishing out 10 assists in his maiden appearance|
Another noteworthy figure this week was the 10 assists that Ermis Baris dished out to help Royal Hali Gaziantep fend off BK Ventspils 72-61 at home. The 28-year-old point guard joined Gaziantep on loan from Fenerbahce two weeks ago and on his EuroChallenge debut on Tuesday he showed with this what was probably a brilliant move for all parties involved. Baris added eight points and five rebounds, and while his 10 assists are not a EuroChallenge season-high, the fact he also made two steals without committing a single turnover in 30 minutes makes it impossible not to draw parallels between his play and the famous cerebral style of his current coach, Jurij Zdovc, during the 1990s.
Hitting The Headlines:
|Janar Talts and Tartu Rock provided the surprise of the week, stunning defending champions Krasnye Krylia in overtime|
Rather than bemoaning the fact they landed in what can probably evolve into the toughest Last 16 group after completing the Regular Season on a 5-1 record, Triumph Lyubertsy decided to bang their fist on the table in the opening game of Group K and show they mean business. The Russian side travelled to French Pro A co-leaders JDA Dijon, went ahead after just 40 seconds of play and led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter. Even when Dijon threw everything but the kitchen sink at them in the clutch and momentarily claimed the lead, Triumph kept their composure and edged out their hosts 68-66. It is still early days, but every result might be vital in this group and an away win could prove as good as gold.
Quote Of The Week:
"We were behind, but we came back. It is hard to play in Samara and to play against a favourite, but we had luck on our side. We played zone defence well, did good on offence. I am pleased to come back to Samara, I have very good memories of this city," said Janar Talts of Tartu University Rock after his team pulled the biggest upset of the week by defeating reigning champions Krasnye Krylia 75-74 on the road in overtime.