The second half of the 2014-15 Eurocup Last 32 begins Tuesday and Wednesday with all the opponents from Round 3 turning around to play each other again in Round 4, this time with the stakes rising even higher in all eight groups. Three teams are still undefeated in the Last 32, and all three – Bayern Munich, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir – will advance to the next round, the eighthfinals, with victories this week. Meanwhile, two teams need to win to avoid elimination. The action starts with one game in the Croatia capital on Tuesday, before the remaining 15 games are scheduled for Wednesday.
In an all-Russian showdown, Zenit St. Petersburg (2-1) hosts Unics Kazan (2-1) for the first time in Sibur Arena. Unics allows only 68.7 points per game this season, and after thrashing Zenit 103-67 last week it is now looking for a series sweep which would put it in great position atop the standings. But Zenit has been rock-solid at home, where it has won all five of its games this season, and has exact same plan, to retain a share of first place, with a victory. Knowing that one more loss means elimination, CEZ Basketball Nymburk (0-3) plays host to the group's other tri-leader, Strasbourg (2-1), in the Czech capital of Prague. Nymburk has lost six of its last seven games, including an 87-80 defeat in Strasbourg last week, when Antoine Diot netted 28 points in victory. Diot, and in-form forward Matt Howard are determined to lead Strasbourg to another win and an ongoing share of first place.
Looking to start another winning streak going, Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas (2-1) hosts Banvit Bandirma (2-1) in match that will give the winner control of Group H. Although Banvit's 80-70 victory in Round 3 snapped its unbeaten run at 12 games, Gran Canaria now gets to play on its home floor where it has won six games this season by an average margin of 17.3 points, thanks in part to perimeter defense that holds visitors to 30.7% three-point shooting. In a must-win game for both teams, Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari (1-2) hosts Buducnost VOLI Podgorica (1-2) with the aim of avenging last week's seven-point loss. Sassari will rely on big man Shane Lawal, one of just three players averaging a double-double in the Last 32 so far (10.3 points, 10 rebounds). Buducnost could boost its hopes of advancing by sweeping of Sassari, and could use another huge performance by Suad Sehovic ,who amassed 27 points and 13 rebounds last week.
In Round 4's sole Tuesday game, Cedevita Zagreb (2-1) hosts Virtus Roma (2-1) in the Croatian capital as the winner will take over first place with just two games left in the phase. Rome won 73-66 last week and arrives to Zagreb having the Last 32's second-best defense, allowing just 66.3 points per game and holding opponents to 28.9% three-point shooting. Cedevita, meanwhile, has made 41.8% of its triples over three games, using that weapon to open up the paint and allow big man Miro Bilan to dominate inside. CAI Zaragoza (1-2) welcomes Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd (1-2) for the first time. The hosts have won five of six at home this season, and boast the Last 32's fourth-best defense (69 ppg). CAI is led by Stevan Jelovac, the best per-minute scorer in the Last 32 (21.3 ppg, or 40.39 pro-rated over 40 minutes). Oktyabr, which beat CAI 71-66 in Round 3, makes its first ever visit to Spain and hopes to continue with success on the road. The Eurocup newcomer has scored an average of 79.5 points and won three of six games away from home.
Co-leaders Khimki Moscow Region and Limoges CSP seek to make a big step towards the eighthfinals and each grab a two-game cushion atop of the standings. In Wednesday's opener, Khimki Moscow Region (2-1) plays PAOK Thessaloniki (1-2) at home. Khimki averages 91.3 points and 11.3 three-pointers made over itsl ast six games. Khimki is 3-0 all-time against PAOK, including a 78-82 decision in Thessaloniki last week, and PAOK hopes to snap that streak. The Greek side has held opponents to 28.3% shooting behind the arc, the second best mark in the Last 32 this season. After playing three of its last four games on the road, FoxTown Cantu (1-2) is happy to come home and host Limoges CSP (2-1). Cantu has won its last three home games by double-digit margins, and has scored an average of 89 points in those games. Limoges defeated Cantu 81-70 last week, and another double-digit win would be a major boost for Limoges's hopes in the race for the eighthfinals.
Aiming to secure its place in the eighthfinals with a victory, undefeated FC Bayern Munich (3-0) plays hosts to Union Olimpija Ljubljana (1-2). Bayern is one of three undefeated teams so far in the Last 32, and needs one win to claim a ticket for the next phase. Bayern has scored at least 90 points in each of its Last 32 games, and won 80-90 last week in Ljubljana. Bayern will look to big men Vladimir Stimac and John Bryant, who have been dominant in the paint, but Olimpija has had great success on the road this season, winning four of six games. Hoping to build on last week's road win against the same opponent, JDA Dijon (1-2) welcomes Brose Baskets Bamberg (1-2) on Wednesday. Dijon rallied from a double-digit deficit to edge Bamberg 81-86, and now steps on its own floor, where it has held opponents to just 67.3 points per game. This one could turn into a true defensive battle, as Bamberg is ranked second over 13 Eurocup games this season by allowing only 70.2 points on average.
Belgian champ Telenet Ostend (2-1) and Eurocup's leading scorer, John Prince (17.3 ppg), face off against the Polish champion PGE Turow Zgorzelec (2-1) on their home floor on Wednesday. Ostend has a five-game win streak on the line in front of its fans, but it will be up for a challenge against Turow, which is one of three teams scoring more than 90 points per game in the Last 32. Michal Chylinski scored 28 points in last week's 99-71 win over Ostend and leads the Last 32 in scoring (22.0 ppg). With Damian Kulig adding 19.7 points on average, Turow is the only Last 32 team with two players among top five in scoring. With a new coach on the bench, Baloncesto Sevilla (0-3) looks to avoid elimination when it hosts Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (2-1) and Round 3 MVP Martynas Gecevicius, who is also the Last 32's performance index rating leader (28.3). Rytas dominated in the 100-78 victory last week and has been making a staggering 13.7 triples per game at 48.2% shooting accuracy in this phase.
A clash between the host Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir (3-0) and visiting Paris Levallois (1-2) features five of Eurocup's top 15 scorers this season: Karsiyaka's Bobby Dixon (17.2), Juan Palacios (14.9) and Jon Diebler (14.4), as well as Blake Schilb (15.8) and Sharrod Ford (14.5) from Paris. Karsiyaka, the most productive Last 32 offense at 96.3 points per game, will advance into the eighthfinals with a victory. Besiktas Integral Forex Istanbul (1-2) welcomes Neptunas Klaipeda (1-2) in the fourth clash between these two teams in the past two seasons. All three previous meetings went to the road team, including Besiktas winning 62-69 in Klaipeda last week to end its three-game losing streak. Besiktas now wants to get back to winning ways at home after two losses there. The hosts will try to limit Neptunas's success from three-point range, where the visitors make 11.3 triples per game, but Besiktas held them to only 30% accuracy last week.
The last team without a defeat during the whole Eurocup season so far, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (3-0), hosts SLUC Nancy (1-2) looking for its 15th consecutive Eurocup win, one that would secure its place in the eighthfinals. Lokomotiv has the Eurocup's best defense, allowing a mere 63.9 points, and Nancy experienced difficulties to score last week at home when Lokomotiv won 57-66. CSU Asesoft Ploiesti (1-2) hosts Valencia Basket (1-2), hoping to repeat last week's stunning performance in an 87-92 road win. The hosts rely on competition's assists leader Dee Brown (8 apg) to orchestrate its offense, while Valencia with Carles Duran as a new head coach aims at its first road win in European competitions this season. Valencia lost all five road games in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season as well as its first game so far away from home in the Eurocup Last 32.
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