Two teams with opposing styles play a key game for their mutual aspirations when Ulm visits Aris on Wednesday.
Aris hosts Ulm in a clash of styles
The 2023-24 BKT EuroCup journey continues for Aris Midea Thessaloniki (3-4) and ratiopharm Ulm (5-2) on Wednesday night when the two teams engage in their Group B clash, a first ever between them. The differences between the two clubs are many, with Aris playing in its first EuroCup campaign after a seven-year hiatus, while Ulm is playing its ninth straight season in the competition.
Even starker is the contrast in styles of play between the two sides.
Aris is struggling offensively in its EuroCup return. Through seven rounds, it ranks dead last in three paramount offensive categories: scoring (68.1 ppg.), assists (11.9) and three-point accuracy (27.1% ). Ulm, on the other hand, scores 20 points more per game (88.4) and nearly 10 assists more (21.3) while making triples at a 39.2% rate. Ulm ranks fourth in each of those categories.
So, how does Aris have just two wins fewer than Ulm? Thanks to its defense.
Aris allows a EuroCup-low 70.1 points to its opponents, and that number has dropped to 65.0 over the last five games, during which Aris has a 3-2 record. Four of those five games have finished by a margin of 7 points or fewer, with three contests decided by exactly 2 points.
Aris also forces a league-best 17.6 turnovers while holding opposing two-point shooters to second-lowest 47.6% accuracy and three-point shooters to third-lowest 31.4% accuracy..
The turning point for Aris might have been the arrival of Kris Bankston, who has posted 10.5 point and 5.0 rebounds in four games since joining Aris, while bringing an abundance of energy into the paint.
Ulm is far less committed to its defense but has as many as five players averaging more than 2.0 assists per game, including Juan Nunez (5.4), Georginho De Paula (4.9) and big man Trevion Williams (3.5).
Perhaps as a product of such divergent styles, the games of these two teams tend to end in different ways.
While Aris has played several nail-biters, especially in recent weeks, six of Ulm's seven games this season have finished by double-digit margins. Ulm, for instance has a +25 cumulative point-difference for the season despite suffering a 29-point loss at Dreamland Gran Canaria.
But Ulm has won just one of three road games, the same as the record of Aris at home, where the Thessaloniki fans are famous for the atmosphere they create.
With this one being played in front of the loud and passionate support of those Aris fans, the home team will give its all to win and climb back to an even record. For Ulm, it first-ever visit to Thessaloniki will be a great test, one that if passed successfully will be a significant step toward its playoff ambitions at the halfway point of the regular season.