7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season, Round 7: Five sides eye Top 16 spots
As many as five teams could qualify for the Top 16 during Round 7, thus joining UNICS Kazan, which did so last week. And all but one of them depends solely on its own results. Both ALBA Berlin and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar are on the verge of qualification from Group B, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne from Group C and Unicaja Malaga and Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt in Group D. Round 7's 12 games will be split into three on Tuesday and nine more on Wednesday. With only three more rounds on regular season action after the current round, there is much to play for now.
First place in Group A will be up for grabs when Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (4-2) hosts AS Monaco on Wednesday. Zvezda has dropped two of its last three after starting the season with three consecutive wins, but remains undefeated at home. Monaco, which is 3-0 on the road so far, saw its three-game winning streak snapped last week by Germani Brescia Leonessa (2-4). The game will be a showdown of two of the best defenses in the competition; Zvezda has allowed the second-fewest points in the EuroCup (72.7 ppg.) and Monaco is tied for the third-fewest (73.8 ppg.). A critical showdown with Top 16 implications takes place when Brescia hosts MoraBanc Andorra (3-3). Brescia has won two of its last three games with the wins coming against the top two teams in the standings. MoraBanc has also won two of its last three, but remains winless on the road this season. It will be an exciting game for MoraBanc's Michela Vitali, who will be visiting his former team and facing his brother, Luca. Two more teams in the hunt for Top 16 berths clash when Galatasaray Istanbul (2-4) hosts ratiopharm Ulm (3-3). Galatasaray is on a three-game losing streak. Ulm is perfect at home, but has lost all three of its road games. Because their previous encounter went to overtime, the winner in Round 7 will also have the tie-break advantage unless this game needs an extra period, too.
The two top teams in this group are just one victory away from the Top 16. ALBA Berlin (5-1) is one of them, but Coach Aito's side is in a tough spot with its starting backcourt of Peyton Siva and Martin Hermannsson sidelined. ALBA has won four straight games and will play three of its last four regular season contests at home, where it has not lost this season. Its opponent Cedevita Zagreb (3-3) has gone through some lineup changes recently and comes off a convincing rout of Limoges CSP (2-4). ALBA's lone defeat thus far came at the hands of Cedevita, 75-73, in Round 2. The other team that can advance is Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (5-1), which visits Limoges. After a big win on opening night, Limoges has dropped four of five games, including its last two. However, Coach Milling's men are 2-1 at home. Lokomotiv has undergone some turmoil with the departure of Coach Obradovic, but defeated Arka Gdynia last week to remain tied for first place in the group. On Tuesday, Tofas Bursa claimed its first road win of the EuroCup season by holding off Arka Gdynia 77-87. Sammy Mejia starred with 22 points, 5 assists and 5 steals and Diante Garrett scored 21 points and dished 5 assists to pace Tofas, which improved to 3-4. Tofas made 10 of 18 three-pointers (55.6%) and forced Arka into 15 turnovers. Robert Upshaw and Josh Bostic scored 21 points apiece for Arka, which slipped to 1-6.
Dolomitri Energia Trento stayed alive in the hunt for the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16 by beating LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne 79-77 to snap a five-game losing streak. Despite playing without suspended leading scorer Nikola Jovanovic, Trento had five scorers in double figures, paced by Dustin Hogue's double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Trento improved to 2-5, while ASVEL, which would have clinched a Top 16 berth with a win, saw its five-game winning streak stopped to fall to 5-2.On Wednesday, in a critical game for two teams hoping to claim Top 16 tickets, Zenit St. Petersburg (3-3) takes on Partizan NIS Belgrade (2-4). Zenit has lost its last two games on the road. Partizan, now under new head coach Andrea Trinchieri, comes off an important win and looks for its first road triumph. Later the same night, Valencia Basket (4-2) hosts red-hot Turk Telekom Ankara (3-3). Valencia has dropped two of its last three games, but is second in the group and is undefeated in three home games. Turk Telekom was won three in a row, including one on the road, to soar into Top 16 contention. Turk Telekom's victories have all been by margins of 4-6 points, so Coach Goren's men are tested in tough situations. Sam Van Rossom delivered a club-record 12 assists to lead Valencia to a 67-72 victory when the teams met last month.
Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt (4-2) hosts Unicaja Malaga (5-1) with both teams targeting a Top 16 berth. The Skyliners need to win and for Fiat Turn (0-6) to defeat Mornar Bar (1-6) later Wednesday to advance this week. Unicaja goes through if it wins or if Mornar loses. Skyliners are in good form, having won three of their last four games and set to host three of their final four regular season games. Unicaja is tied for the top spot in Group D and on a five-game winning streak. Unicaja routed Skyliners in Spain 91-64 last month in Round 2. Mornar has lost four straight games since beating Fiat for its only win of the season. Fiat is the lone winless team in the EuroCup. Defense has been the Achilles's heel for both teams with Mornar allowing the second-most points in the competition this season (92.2 ppg.) and Fiat the third-most (90 ppg.). On Tuesday, UNICS Kazan fended off a tough fight from Rytas Vilnius in picking up an 81-87 road victory for its third straight win. Errick McCollum scored 18 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter while Pierria Henry collected 18 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists as UNICS, which had already qualified for the Top 16, jumped to 5-1. Rytas dropped its second straight game to fall to 3-4 despite D.J. Seeley picking up 19 points, 6 assists and 3 steals.