Ventspils returns home to host Besiktas ColaTurka in Latvia on Tuesday night in a crucial Group B showdown between two teams tied for third place with 2-3 records. Ventspils first win of the season came against Besiktas in Istanbul, 65-76, in Week 1. Dalron Johnson and Eddie Shannon scored 17 each for Ventspils that night. Last week the Latvian champs lost at Anwil Wloclawek, while Besiktas is still hunting its first-ever away win in the ULEB Cup after losing in Strasbourg, 91-72. The winners will take a step forward towards the elimination rounds. The potential head-to-head tie-breaker could also play a role, so while any win will boost Ventspils, Besiktas will seek to win by more than 11 to maximize its chances. Both teams have been tough on defense, with Ventspils allowing 75.2 points per game and Besiktas 76.6. The home court advantage could give to the perennial Latvian champion a big push. Shannon(18.8 ppg., 5.2 apg.) is Ventspils top dog, as he scores and creates for others. Three other players average double figures in points – Aigars Vitols (13.2 ppg.), Dusan Jelic (11.8) and Johnson (10.2), but Ventspils needs more contribution from its bench, traditionally one of its more productive weapons. Besiktas will see increasing its defensive pressure and controlling the pace as keys to victory. A real danger for Ventspils is on the glass, as Besiktas pulls down an average of 13 offensive rebounds per game – third-best in the ULEB Cup – led by by Cevher Ozer and Brooks Sales with 3.2 each. However the team has not scored consistently inside, shooting 41.9% on two-pointers. Point guard Aubree Reese (17.2 ppg., 4.8 apg.) is the offensive leader, along with Jamel Thomas (13.3 ppg.) and Ozer (11.8 ppg., 7.2 rpg.). These teams enter the game evenly matched and promise a tense encounter that could go down to the wire, but only one team can start thinking about the elimination rounds when it's over.
Monday, December 04, 2006