Experienced cores of four
In just its second Eurocup campaign, Nizhny Novgorod is back in the quarterfinals and hoping to reach the semifinals again, too. Back in 2013-14, Nizhny eliminated Hapoel Jerusalem in the quarterfinals, but got ousted against eventual champion Valencia Basket in the semis. Four key players remain on the squad from two seasons ago: Semen Antonov is the team's second-best scorer (13.1), and also second assists (2.3) and free throws (86.8%); Evgeny Baburin has a team-best 1.5 steals; Vladimir Ivlev makes 59.6% of his two-points shots; and Dimitriy Khvostov is Nizhny's top three-point shooter (50%) and plays the second-most minutes (29:48). This is also Strasbourg's second quarterfinals appearance, but its first since 2007 and, to no one's surprise, no player or coach is still with the team from nine years ago. However, this is Strasbourg's fifth Eurocup season and third straight appearance in the competitions. Four players have been with the team for all three of thos seasons: guards Louis Campbell (7.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.3 apg) and Paul Lacombe (6.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3 apg); shooting forward Jeremy Leloup (8.9 ppg); and big man Romain Duport (6.1 ppg).
Nizhny performs at home
In the opening leg of the eighthfinals, Nizhny defeated Zenit St. Petersburg 102-76 to pave its way to the Eurocup Quarterfinals. When it comes to offense, Nizhny has some of the best stats this season for any team playing on its home floor. Its 6-3 record at home might not suggest it, but among quarterfinalists, Nizhny ranks highest among Eurocuphome teams in three-point shooting percentage (41.9%), is tied for first in triples made (10.6), and scores a more-than-respectable 84.8 points per game. By comparison, Nizhny scores 78.2 points and makes only 35.5% of its three-pointers on the road. Still, in those six home wins, Nizhny won only twice by double digits. However, despite not-as-impressive results, Nizhny was very competitive on the road, too, where it holds a 4-5 record. What's more, of the five games it lost away, two were in a dramatic fashion.
If eighthfinals series are any indication, both head coaches have shortened their respective rotations, but one more than the other. Strasbourg’s Vincent Collet used 10 different players in those two games against EWE Baskets Oldenburg. Nine of them played in each eighthfinal game and each of the 10 players he used averaged at least 9 minutes per appearance. In two games combined, no one on Strasbourg has played more than Mardy Collins who spent 55:27 on the floor, despite coming off the bench in Game 1. On the other hand, Nizhny’s Ainars Bagatskis used nine different players, but only seven of them played significant minutes. Four different players spent more minutes on the floor in the eighthfinals than Collins, and only two other teams in the eighthfinals had three players playing more minutes that Nizhny’s Victor Rudd (67:51), Semen Antonov (64:22) and Dimitriy Khvostov (58:56).
Strasbourg is money from foul line
Among quarterfinal teams, Strasbourg is ranked second in free throw accuracy (79.6%). Interestingly, since his team joined the competition in the Last 32, Jeremy Leloup has yet to miss a free throw, going 16 for 16 from the lines so far. Rodrigue Beaubois has knocked down 13 of 14 and Louis Campbell 11 of 12, as well. In the eighthfinal series against Oldenburg, the team even improved, making 83.3% of its free throws. Seven different players attempted at least 2 free throws in the series, and six of them missed one or no attempt over two games. Making foul shots could be key in home-and-away series, but in addition to making free throws, Strasbourg also ranks second among the quarterfinalists in assists (18.8) and third in steals (8.4). Also, only one quarterfinal team averages more points on the road (84.3 per game) than Strasbourg.
Look out for these guys
Both teams have been well balanced, but a few individuals on Strasbourg and Nizhny Novgorod do stand out. No player in the eighthfinals scored more points than Nizhny’s Victor Rudd, who had 43 in two games. He averages 15.8 points and 6.7 rebounds this season. Other Nizhny players averaging double-digits in scoring are forward Semen Antonov (13.1 ppg., 4.6 rpg.), point guard Dimitriy Khvostov (10.3 ppg., 6.7 apg.), and center Rasid Mahalbasic (10.9 ppg., 5.1 rpg.). Nizhny also has balance in rebounding where four current Nizhny players pull down at least 4 boards per game. When it comes to Strasbourg, no player on a quarterfinal team averages better than Matt Howard’s 9 rebounds per night, and his 22 rebounds were best in the eighthfinals. No player made more three-pointers in the eighthfinals than Rodrigue Beaubois, who buried 7 triples in two games and is Strasbourg's top scorer with 14.3 per game. Strasbourg has two other players posting double digits in scoring, Mardy Collins with 12.3 points and Kyle Weems with 10.3 per night.