|Cibona will look to keep pace with the top teams in Group A when it hosts winless Le Mans on Wednesday. Cibona returns home to the Drazen Petrovic Basketball center in Zagreb after losing last week at Maccabi to fall to 4-2 and one win behind group leader Olympiacos. And since the Reds face the team that is currently tied with Cibona for second, Unicaja, had coach Velimir Perasovic’s men know that a win over Le Mans will leave them either in a tie for first place or in sole possession of second. Meanwhile Le Mans continues to hunt for its first win. Head coach J.D. Jackson’s men are coming off their worst loss of the season, a 55-87 capitulation to Unicaja. It was the first time Le Mans lost this season by more than 5 points. One off those narrow losses came in Week 2 against Cibona, 54-58, as Earl Calloway erupted for 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists – all season highs – to lead the winners. Calloway has scored in double figures in every game since and Cibona has scored at least 80 points in three of the four games since. Calloway teams with Davor Kus and Rawle Marshall to give Cibona exceptional scoring options from the perimeter, while Marin Rozic adds intensity off the bench. Le Mans counters with an equally potent offensive backcourt featuring Brian Chase, Dee Spencer and David Bluthenthal, while teenager Antoine Diot brings playmaking and defensive skills in a reserve role. J.P. Batiste is Le Mans’s top inside scorer and Pape Badiane, Alain Koffi and Maleye Ndoye for an athletic and aggressive frontcourt. Cibona has four different players that split time upfront: the savvy Niksa Prkacin, bruising Jared Homan, mobile Luksa Andric and forward Vedran Vukusic, who can punish defenses with his mid-range and outside shot. The Le Mans players surely know that another loss will essentially kill their last hopes for a spot in the Top 16, so Jackson’s charges are certain to come out hungry. But it will be a tough task against Cibona, which is perfect at home this year. Le Mans will need a balanced attack, including a serious scoring threat inside, to have a chance at winning in Zagreb. The key matchup could be at small forward, where Bluthenthal will need to guard the quicker Marshall at times.
- Guard Earl Calloway recorded season highs in points, rebounds and assists in Cibona’s Week 2 victory at Le Mans. Calloway registered 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists to lead his team that night.
- Forward Vedran Vukusic’s confidence has grown recently as he has established Euroleague career bests in each of his last two games. Two weeks ago he grabbed 11 rebounds in a win over Avellino and last week he made 3 triples en route to 18 points against Maccabi.
- Forward Marin Rozic is coming off a spectacular game in the Adriatic League. Rozic produced 18 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals in a win against Bosna.
- Big man J.P. Batista scored a Euroleague career-high 21 points in his team’s Week 2 loss against Cibona.
- Teenager Antoine Diot is spending more time at point guard recently and has averaged 5 assists per game over the past two games.
- The only game in which reserve forward Maleye Ndoye has failed to score in this weason was against Cibona.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008