In a do-or-die battle of powerhouses seeking a championship game spot, Valencia Basket hosts Virtus Segafredo Bologna at La Fonteta on Wednesday.
Semifinals breakdown: Valencia Basket vs. Virtus Segafredo Bologna
Valencia keeps making history
Valencia will play in the EuroCup Semifinals for the ninth time and the record of its previous appearances works in its favor. Valencia won its semifinals and ended up lifting the trophy in 2003, 2010, 2014 and 2019. It also made it to the finals in 2012 and 2017, when it lost to Khimki Moscow Region and Unicaja Malaga, respectively. That's six semifinal wins in eight appearances. Its only losses came against Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius in 2005 and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in 2013.
Sam Van Rossom and Bojan Dubljevic have a chance to win their third EuroCup crown, something that only former teammate Rafa Martinez and Coach Rimas Kurtinaitis have done in the past. Van Rossom and Dubljevic won in both 2014 and 2019. Victor Claver, Louis Labeyrie and Mike Tobey are also former EuroCup champions. Claver lifted the trophy with Valencia as team captain in 2010. Labeyrie and Tobey claimed their first EuroCup crown in 2019.
Virtus is back in the semis
Virtus has advanced to the semifinals for the 17th time in European competition, including four EuroLeague appearances at this stage (1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002). Toko Shengelia won the EuroCup with Valencia as an 18-year-old in 2010, but did not play after the quarterfinals. Milos Teodosic is a EuroLeague champion with CSKA Moscow in 2016, Marco Belinelli won the NBA championship with San Antonio in 201, and Coach Sergio Scariolo reached the EuroCup Finals with Khimki in 2009.
This will be Virtus's second consecutive EuroCup Semifinals appearance. Last season, Virtus had the home-court advantage in a best-of-three playoff series against UNICS Kazan and took the opener for its 20th consecutive victory in the competition. UNICS, however, went on to win the next two games. Six players - Amedeo Tessitori, Alessandro Pajola, Amar Alibegovic, Kyle Weems, Teodosic and Belinelli - from that squad remain on the Virtus roster.
Earlier this season
Valencia and Virtus faced each other twice in the regular season. In Round 4, Valencia arrived in Bologna without Neno Dimitrijevic, Claver, Tobey and Labeyrie and beat Virtus 96-97 behind 20 points from Klemen Prepelic. Van Rossom scored 15 points, Martin Hermannsson and Jasiel Rivero both had 11 and Dubljevic finished with 10 points. Weems led Virtus with 30 points. Virtus led 46-25 late in the first half, but Valencia came back, took the lead with less than 3 minutes left and converted all 6 free throws in the final 35 seconds to secure the win.
In Round 13, Valencia held on to an 83-77 victory against Virtus at La Fonteta. Prepelic, who won't be available in the semifinals due to injury, led the way again with 19 points. Jaime Pradilla added 10 for Valencia. Weems had 17 points for Virtus, which was still without new signings Daniel Hackett and Toko Shengelia. Valencia outrebounded Virtus 47-33 in what was one of the keys to the game along with the hosts' free throw accuracy: 92% (23 of 25).
Valencia and Virtus have been two of the most efficient teams when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. Valencia ranks second in scoring (88.0 ppg.) this season and Virtus is fifth (83.9 ppg.). Virtus is first in assists (22.2 ppg.), with Valencia right behind (20.9 apg.). They rank fourth and 10th, respectively, in all-time assist average in EuroCup history. Teodosic leads the EuroCup in assists with 8.5 per game. Valencia had 33 assists in its regular-season finale against ratiopharm Ulm - 1 shy of tying the competition record, which is shared by Khimki Moscow Region and Aykon TED Ankara Kolejliler.
So many assists led to good two-point shooting percentages. Valencia leads the competition at 58.0%, having made 406 of 700 shots inside the arc. Virtus is fourth at 56.6%, converting 461 of its 814 two-point attempts. Players from both teams lead the individual rankings, too. Pradilla tops the charts (80.7%), Rivero is second (72.2%) and Mam Jaiteh of Virtus is fifth (71.0%). Four more Virtus players have made more than 60% of their two-pointers: Tessitori (64.6%), Isaia Cordinier (63.8%), Weems (61.1%) and Jakarr Sampson (60.2%). Valencia centers Tobey (61.9%) and Dubljevic (61.8%) are two more of the 36 players shooting better than 60% inside the arc in the EuroCup this season.