Last 32 Round 4: First qualifiers could reach next phase!

Last 32 Round 4 features rematches of all of last week’s games, only this time in the other city, as the race for the Eurocup Eighthfinals becomes very much do or die. In fact, five teams in four different groups this week can become the first qualifiers to the next phase. The fun starts with four games on Tuesday and winds up with a dozen on Wednesday!

Group G

Returning home after two consecutive road wins, Banvit Bandirma (2-1) welcomes ratiopharm Ulm (0-3) in the first of two Group G games on Wednesday. It is a must-win game for Ulm, which has seven losses in its last eight Eurocup games and will be eliminated from the eighthfinals race with its fourth defeat. Last week, guard Courtney Fortson scored 18 points and dished 11 assists when Banvit defeated Ulm 80-92 on the road. Now, with an offense tied for third in Last 32 scoring, at 86.7 points per game, aims to shoot Banvit closer to the next round. Something will have to give when undefeated group leader FC Bayern Munich (3-0) hosts Dominion Bilbao Basket (1-2), which has a perfect 6-0 road record in the Eurocup this season. A victory, and a sweep of Bilbao, would send Bayern through to the eighthfinals. Bilbao averages 87.3 points per game away from home, while making 11.3 three-pointers on 42.8% shooting from beyond the arc. Bayern has many weapons of its own, including six different players who are posting at least 9.7 points so far in the Eurocup.

Group H

In the first of two Wednesday games, Avtodor Saratov (1-2) looks to get back to winning ways when it welcomes Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas (2-1). Last week Gran Canaria routed Avtodor at home, 101-77, behind five double-digit scorers and 11 assists from Albert Oliver. Avtodor has competition’s top scoring offense (92.5) , but has averaged only 75.5 in the last two games. Meanwhile, Gran Canaria’s defense has allowed only 75.5 points in the Last 32, and no team has grabbed more offensive boards that Gran Canaria’s 173 through 13 games this campaign. Israeli champ Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem (0-3) is facing elimination when it plays host to first-place Strasbourg (3-0). Of five Jerusalem players who averaging double-digit scoring overall in this Eurocup season, just three of them have more than 7.7 points per game in the Last 32. With a loss, Jerusalem will be eliminated from eighthfinals contention. Meanwhile, Strasbourg has held its opponents to league-low 23.7% three-point shooting, and has not allowed more than 76 points in three Last 32 games so far. Strasbourg edged Jerusalem 75-71 at home last week. If both Gran Canaria and Strasbourg win, both will qualify to the eighthfinals, while both Saratov and Jerusalem are eliminated.

Group I

With both of Group I’s games scheduled for Tuesday, EWE Baskets Oldenburg (2-1) hosts PAOK Thessaloniki (1-2), hoping for a series sweep. Despite losing its three Eurocup home games, Oldenburg has excelled on the road, where it has won four of its last five. Last week, Oldenburg downed PAOK 68-81 as Chris Kramer had 8 steals, a Last 32 all-time record. PAOK, which has not played on German soil in more than a decade, hopes to cut down on its 17 turnovers per game, the most in the Last 32, to give itself a better chance to win. A little later Tuesday, French champion Limoges CSP (1-2) hosts Valencia Basket (2-1) in a much-anticipated rematch. Last week, in the debut of new head coach Dusko Vujosevic, Limoges defeated Valencia 72-92, and now aims to repeat this performance. Valencia suffered its first loss of the season last week, but is still unbeaten in six Eurocup games away from home. Despite last week’s loss, Valencia still averages 86 points in the Last 32 – ranking sixth – and has nine players scoring 7.3 points per contest.

Group J

No road wins have been registered so far in Group J, where Neptunas Klaipeda (1-2) welcomes EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (2-1) to get things going on Tuesday. In the Eurocup for the first time in more than a decade, Milan’ defense has allowed the third-fewest points in the Last 32, 69.3 per game. Neptunas looks to get back to winning ways in front of its home crowd, but needs to find an offensive spark as it has the Last 32’s lowest-scoring offense (67.3 ppg). A day later, Aris Thessaloniki (1-2) hosts ALBA Berlin (2-1). Aris is perfect 6-0 at home this Eurocup season and has never lost to ALBA in Thessaloniki. It could be a perfect place for Aris to regain its rhythm after averaging just 60.5 points in two losses over the last couple of weeks. The visitors are the competition’s fourth-best offensive rebounding team this season (12.2 per game), but have lost their last three road decisions and a 2-4 record away from home during this Eurocup campaign. Still, ALBA is one of only two Last 32 teams with two players averaging more than 17 points per game: Dragan Milosavljevic (18.3) and Elmedin Kikanovic (17.7).

Group K

Two Italian teams play hosts to visitors from Turkey in Group K on Wednesday. Dolomiti Energia Trento (2-1) hopes to get a sweep of Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir (1-2). Julian Wright starred for Trento last week with 26 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks and 3 steals in a 79-85 road win in Izmir. Another win against the same opponent would greatly help Trento’s hopes of booking a ticket to the eighthfinals. No team in the Last 32 forces more turnovers than Trento (19.7), including the 21 that Karsiyaka made last week. Karsiyaka will look for more offensive balance as Bracey Wright averages 22 points but only one more player double-figures in the Last 32. In the other Italian-Turkish clash, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (1-2) hosts Trabzonspor Medical Park (2-1). In their game last week, Trabzonspor rallied from a 14-point deficit to win 82-76. Reggio Emilia will be aiming to overcome that six-point margin and get the advantage in a potential head-to-head tie-breaker. Reggio Emilia is 5-1 on its home floor this season, while Trabzonspor is only 1-5 on the road this Eurocup campaign.

Group L

Zenit St. Petersburg (3-0) plays at home against Stelmet Zielona Gora (1-2) in search of the win that would clinch its place in the next round. Zenit is 11-2 in the Eurocup this season and has five wins in six home matches. In the Last 32, Zenit ranks near the top with 86.3 points, 19 assists and 11.3 offensive rebounds per game. Zielona Gora moves the ball well and averages 20.7 assists per night, but it was Zenit that dominated and won their meeting last week, 76-90, with Ryan Toolson scoring 20 points and Janis Timma adding 19. Umana Reyer Venice (1-2) returns home to play MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg (1-2) again. Last week, Ludwigsburg snapped its two-game losing streak with 94-84 win. Venice is third-best in scoring (86.7) in the Last 32, and Mike Green leads the phase with 23 points per game, but that helped Venice to only one win so far, as team has allowed the third-most points (87.7) in the last three games, as well. Venice also gives up 12 offensive rebounds per game, the fifth-most, while Ludwigsburg is the best offensive rebounding team in the Last 32 (16.7).

Group M

In a high-profile showdown on Tuesday, Unics Kazan (3-0) welcomes Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (2-1) knowing it can book its place in the eighthfinals with a victory. Unics is on a five-game winning streak, and has won eight of its last nine Eurocup games. It took control of the group with an 82-92 victory in Tel Aviv last week when former Maccabi player Keith Langford scored 30 points. Unics ranks first in Last 32 with 88.3 points per game and playmaker Quino Colom leads this phase in both assists (9.3) and index rating (35). Maccabi, in its Eurocup debut, has a one-two scoring punch of its own in Devin Smith (16.3) and last year’s Alphonso Ford Trophy winner Taylor Rochestie (16). In another clash on Russian soil, Nizhny Novgorod (1-2) hosts Union Olimpija Ljubljana (0-3) hoping for a win that would allow it to get back into eighthfinals contention. In six Eurocup home games this year Nizhny has 4-2 record, but has scored at least 78 points in each of those. Olimpija will be eliminated in the event of a loss.

Group N

Looking to continue the trend of protecting home court in this group, Szolnoki Olaj (1-2) hosts Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul (2-1) and last week’s MVP Stephane Lasme, who collected 20 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks in his team’s 87-59 win. Blake Schilb added 24 points and 6 assists last week for Galatasaray which ranks second in scoring with 88 points per game and first in assists (22) in the Last 32. Szolnoki has won four straight home games and has averaged 83 points during that stretch. The reigning Italian champion Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari (1-2) hosts CAI Zaragoza (2-1). It is a must-win game for the hosts who have yet to reach an 80-point margin in a Eurocup game this season, but have kept themselves in games by taking good care of the ball in the Last 32, committing only 8.3 turnovers per game so far. CAI won their showdown last week 87-75, holding Sassari to 4-for-19 three-point shooting. It was CAI’s fifth win in six Eurocup games, and another one would position it realy close to a place in the next phase.

Follow all the action on Tuesday and Wednesday on Eurosport and!

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