|A pair of national champions from neighboring countries will clash in a crucial Group B battle on Wednesday when Asseco Prokom Sopot hosts Zalgiris Kaunas. The Polish champs are coming off a big home win over SLUC Nancy, led by Dan Ewing’s 32 points, which improved its record to 1-1. Zalgiris meanwhile slipped to 0-2 with a 26-point loss to Montepaschi. Zalgiris led at halftime, but scored only 24 points in the entire second half as the game slipped away. Making matters worse for the Lithuanian champs, they will compete in Sopot without starting point guard Willie Deane, who suffered a broken nose in last week’s contest. Head coach Gintaras Krapikas will look to a trio of young guard to lead his team this week. Teenager Zygimantas Janavicius and Mantas Kalnietis figure to start with Rolandas Alijevas, who made his Euroleague debut last week, serving as their prime backup. They must improve the standard of play, since Zalgiris ranks last in the Euroleague with just 10 steals and it has committed 44 turnovers – more than any other team. Small forward Dainius Salenga may also help out a bit as Zalgiris aims to keep up with Prokom’s dynamic backcourt of Ewing and David Logan – the highest scoring duo in the Euroleague at a combined 40 points per game. Their efficiency has been supreme, as Prokom no team has committed fewer than Prokom’s 18 turnovers this season. Do-it-all forward Ronnie Burrell and veteran center Pat Burke provide points inside, while Koko Archibong and reserve forward Filip Dylewicz balance the squad with their athleticism and defense. Zalgiris may look to pound the ball inside as much as possible to make the most use of Loren Woods and Paulius Jankunas, the team’s only two scorers in double figures last week. Tomas Masiulis, who spent the past six seasons with Prokom, could be a key figure off the bench for Zalgiris, as could veteran center Eurelijus Zukauskas if Ratko Varda’s shoulder keeps him sidelined. Thus far, the big men, led by Woods, have been successful on the glass, but have also struggled from the line, converting a Euroleague-low 48.8% from the free-throw line. As the second-lowest scoring team so far (59 ppg.), Zalgiris will need to extend itself, keep turnovers at a minimum and press the Prokom backcourt to have a chance at the hosts’ high-scoring attack (81 ppg.). Still, with the Polish champs having seen their confidence rise while winning four in a row at home, Prokom is the clear favorite to improve to 2-1.
- Guard David Logan has played all 40 minutes in both of his team’s games so far.
- Guard Daniel Ewing's 32 points in Week 2 were the most in Euroleague history for a player who attempted no free throws in a game.
- If the club wins its Week 3 game against Zalgiris, it will mark the first time the club has had a winning record in the Euroleague since starting the 2005-06 season with a 2-1 record.
- Forward Tomas Masiulis returns to face his former team this week. Masiulis spent six seasons with Prokom, in which he won five Polish championships and two Polish Cups. He also played in 65 Euroleague games over four campaigns with the club.
- Zalgiris swept its Week 3 opponent, Asseco Prokom, in two regular season games last season. They were the first two meetings ever between the clubs.
- Center Loren Woods enters his team’s Week 3 game averaging 12 rebounds per game, the most in the Euroleague so far this season.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008