Mornar Bar will try to get back to its winning ways when it hosts Group H leader UNICS Kazan on Wednesday. Appearing in the Top 16 for the first time in club history, Mornar has been involved in two dramatic finishes decided by a single basket, first beating Herbalife Gran Canaria in a shootout on the road and then losing a defensive battle at home against MoraBanc Andorra. UNICS has beaten both of those opponents so far and a win in Bar would bring the former EuroCup champs very close to a place in the quarterfinals.
This is only Mornar's second season in the competition, but it already played against UNICS in the 2018-19 campaign. UNICS swept their regular-season series with a pair of double-digit victories, including a 74-97 rout in Bar. Three Mornar players remain from that contest, Uros Lukovic and Nemanja Vranjes who were starters in that game two seasons ago, as well as Radoje Vujosevic. On the other side, Jamar Smith, Pavel Sergeev, Evgeny Kolesnikov and Kostas Kaimakoglu are still with UNICS.
There could be fireworks in store when veteran guards Jacob Pullen and Jamar Smith square off in this contest. Playing in his fifth EuroCup campaign, Mornar's Pullen is averaging a career-high 17.7 points on 42.5% three-point shooting. Pullen ranks fifth in scoring this season and Smith is tied for sixth with 17.0 per game, also a career-best for the veteran of seven seasons in the competition. Smith is shooting 55.2% from long range, having knocked down 32 triples, one more than Pullen has this season.
Keys to victory: Mornar
Not turning the ball over is always important, but especially against UNICS which has forced 16.0 turnovers per game, tied for the most in the Top 16. Mornar will also need to find a way to compete with UNICS in rebounding. Mornar has only pulled down a Top 16-low 13 offensive rebounds, while UNICS has pulled down 33 through two games. Mornar must protect its defensive glass while trying to get as many second-chance possessions as possible.
Keys to victory: UNICS
UNICS has not shined on offense, but has played stellar defense the last two weeks, having held Andorra to 66 points and Gran Canaria to just 62. It would favor UNICS to play another low-scoring affair. To produce another similar defensive effort, UNICS must keep playing aggressively on the perimeter and force Mornar into playing more half-court basketball.