The BKT EuroCup Regular Season will reach its midway point with Round 9 on Tuesday and Wednesday, including clashes between the top four teams in both Groups A and B. Here's the lowdown on this week's ten games.
Round 9 features key duels at the tops and bottoms of the groups
Tuesday, November 28
Either Turk Telekom (1-7) or Slask (0-8) will finally celebrate the end of a long losing run in a game that already looks like a battle to avoid the wooden spoon in Group B. The game could be a real grind, with Turk Telekom possessing the competition's second-worst offense (76.5 points per game), while Slask is only marginally better at 77.4 points per game. A bright spot for the Turkish team has been the form of Steven Enoch, who has recorded four straight double-doubles with an average PIR of 24.3. A highlight of this game will be his battle in the paint with the equally prolific Dusan Miletic, who will be looking to regain top form after netting 9 points in last week's loss to Lietkabelis, ending a five-game streak of double-digit scoring.
Red-hot London (6-2) will aim for a fourth straight victory as it travels to a Wolves team (4-3) that is also looking good for a place in the playoffs after winning four of its last five. Expect a fierce rebounding battle: Wolves averages the league's second-highest number of offensive boards, 13.4 per game, with 2.6 coming from Tre'Shawn Thurman; but London protects its backboard better than anyone else, with Donte Grantham (5.6 defensive rebounds per game) contributing to London's league-best average of 28.1 boards off its own glass. Matthew Morgan has scored at least 15 points in seven straight games, so slowing him down will be a key for the Wolves defense.
After seeing a promising upturn in form ended by last week's loss against Prometey, Reyer (3-5) will look to get back on the playoff trail with a visit from a Hamburg team (1-7) whose hopes of challenging for the knockout stages are fast fading. Reyer is one of the best two-point shooting teams in the competition, making 56.9% of shots inside the arc, and will look for Kyle Wiltjer (11.2 points per game) to register his fifth straight double-digit scoring night. Hamburg will look to control him through the dependable William Christmas (7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game), who has made at least one steal every game this season.
Wednesday, November 29
In Wednesday's opening tip-off, Cluj (6-2) will look to get back onto the winning path against Lietkabelis (4-4) which has won three in a row. Cluj's heavy loss to Gran Canaria last week was partly down to committing 24 turnovers, and guard duo DJ Seeley and Bryce Jones will look to take better care of the basketball after respectively losing 4 and 5 possessions in that defeat. Lietkabelis continued its excellent run with a hard-fought victory at Slask, surviving a fourth-quarter collapse as Vytenis Lipkevicius flirted with a triple-double by posting 8 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists, and the Lithuanian team will be conscious of starting in Cluj much better than it finished in Slask.
Cedevita's (0-8) long quest for a first victory of the season faces its latest chapter with a visit from high-flying Paris (7-1), which is eager to recover from the blip of its first defeat of the campaign against Besiktas. The game is highlighted by a backcourt battle between the league's leading assisters, with Cedevita's Klemen Prepelic (9.3 assists per game) going up against Paris orchestrator TJ Shorts (7.6 apg.). The host's cause is helped by the presence of Justin Cobbs, who scored 19 points on his return from injury last week. Paris will again look to the long-range shooting prowess of Nadir Hifi, who has made 15 of his last 26 three-pointers.
After claiming the prestigious prize of Group A leader Paris last week, Besiktas (6-2) faces another major road test with a trip to face Hapoel (5-2) in Belgrade. Besiktas has won three of its last four thanks to a suffocating defense, which restricted explosive Paris to just 63 points last week and has allowed only 72.5 points per game, best in the league. Hapoel, in contrast, boasts the league's most potent offense with an average of 97.9 points per game including a 103-99 thriller against Joventut last week. Xavier Munford was the hero, ending a relative slump in form by blasting 31 points. So Besiktas will look to the likes of Berk Ugurlu, who has at least one steal in six games this season, to slow down Munford in what promises to be an enthralling clash of styles.
Two direct rivals currently tied for second place in Group B go head to head as Ulm (6-2) hosts Bourg (6-2). Both are in great form, with Ulm winning five of its last six while Bourg has won three out of four. The German team's smooth offense has delivered an average of 22.5 assists per game, led by 6.2 per night from impressive youngster Juan Nuñez. But nobody puts more pressure on the ball than Bourg, which leads the league in steals with 10.4 per game - 2.4 of those coming from Isaiha Mike. There will also be a big battle in the paint between the competition's leading rebounder Trevion Williams (10.9 per game) and Kevin Kokila, who had 10 points and 9 boards in last week's win over Turk Telekom.
Two teams tied on the fringes of the playoff places go head to head as Trento (3-5) hosts Aris (3-5) with both on two-game losing streaks. A key head-to-head will come in the paint, where Trento's Andrejs Grazulis (14 points and 5.8 rebounds per game) goes up against visiting big man Silvio de Sousa (7.4 points and 6.6 boards). Aris is the lowest-scoring team in the competition with just 70.6 points per game despite a season-high 88 against Ulm last week. This should be a good opportunity to build on that improvement against a Trento team that has struggled defensively, allowing 88.1 points per game and it suffered a big psychological setback last time out with an overtime defeat to Buducnost.
Struggling Joventut (3-5) will aim to end a three-game slide against a Prometey team (4-4) that has been heading in the opposite direction by winning two in a row. Powered by Ondrey Balvin's 8.9 rebounds per game, second best in the league, Prometey is the competition's top rebounding team (39.5 per game) and will expect to dominate the physical battle. Joventut will hope to control the tempo through the backcourt in a game that could become a matter of speed versus power. A key figure could be guard Andres Feliz, who made an excellent return from injury in last week's defeat against Hapoel, scoring 24 points on 10 of 14 field goal shooting and adding 7 assists.
The competition's only perfect team, Gran Canaria (8-0), will aim to underline its intent to retain the EuroCup title with a visit from Buducnost (3-5) which boosted its own playoffs hopes by ending a four-game losing streak by downing Trento in an overtime thriller last time out. The main man in that triumph was Yoan Makoundou, who now averages 20 points and 6.3 rebounds in the last three games. Gran Canaria has won all eight previous meetings between the teams and is looking to maintain its defensive excellence after restricting its opponents to less than 80 points for six consecutive games. Ethan Happ has dominated the boards, averaging 7 rebounds in the last four games, and will look to limit the influence of Makoundou.