Hapoel Jerusalem faces an uphill task as it plays against the only undefeated team left in the ULEB Cup, Besiktas Cola Turka. Head coach Dan Shamir's Jerusalem started at 3-1 but dropped four of five before knocking off PGE Turow Zgorzelec to reach the Last 32. The Israeli side has been one of the best three-point shooting teams (43%) in the competition while shooting 54% from inside the arc and making 79% of its free throws. Jerusalem also committed just 13 turnovers per game. But Shamir's problem has been rebounding. Hapoel finished the regular season with a minus-66 rebounding margin, which was minus-97 if the two games where it won the battle-of-the-boards are taken out. A big help to that cause will be the return of power forward Jamie Arnold, who averaged 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 steals but missed the final four games of the regular season injured. It remains questionable if playmaker Timmy Bowers will return in time from the United States - a loss which would be substantial as he added 14.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Expected to play a big part will be small forward Guy Pniny (10 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 apg), power forward Sharon Shason (14.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.6 spg and 61% on three-pointers) as well as guard Ramel Curry (9.4 ppg). And the addition of forward Jayson Wells should help as well. Besiktas, for its part, is looking to remain perfect, having finished Group B at 10-0. Head coach Ergin Ataman's Turkish team was solid shooting (53% 2-pts, 32% 3-pts) and rebounding (32 rpg) but did an outstanding job taking care of the ball, committing just 12.6 turnovers per game. Largely responsible for that was point guard Christian Dalmau, who averaged 12 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.9 steals, while guard Rick Apodaca chipped in 9.3 points, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals. Besiktas's leading scorer was small forward Preston Shumpert, who had 17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. Shumpert injured his ankle during the Turkish Cup but is expected to play against Jerusalem. Any injury is extremely detrimental to Besiktas as all five of Ataman's starters have played at least 28 minutes per game. Power forward Kaya Peker averaged 16.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals and center Sandro Nicevic added 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals. The fitness of Arnold and Shumpert could go a long way in deciding the outcome of this one.
Monday, February 18, 2008