|Two teams facing an early-season must-win battle square off on Wednesday in France when SLUC Nancy hosts Zalgiris Kaunas. The two teams arrive at the encounter winless and knowing that a fourth loss would severely damage their hopes of reaching the Top 16. However, the winning side will find itself just one win behind the fourth place team and in the heart of the battle to reach the next stage. Nancy arrives after an impressive showing against mighty Panathinaikos, in which the French champion trailed by 1 late in the game before the visitors closed out a 70-80 win. The biggest bright spots were the play of Ricardo Greer and Steed Tchicamboud. The point forward Ricardo Greer scored a career-high 26 points and drew 8 fouls in his best game yet, while point guard Tchicamboud made his first start and responded with 18 points and 6 assists. Among the things Nancy must improve are its bench support – last week the reserves combined for just 9 points, 0 assists and 7 turnovers in 50 minutes – as well as its 2-point shooting (38.6%) and assists (8 apg.) as it ranks last in the Euroleague this season in those areas. Meanwhile Zalgiris played Asseco Prokom to a standstill for more than three periods before succumbing in the end for a 65-60 road loss. The Lithuanian champs were and continue to be without starting point guard Willie Deane, who is sidelined with a broken nose. In his place head coach Gintaras Krapikas has used a largely inexperience backcourt, which is a large reason the club has committed the most turnovers in the competition – 21.7 per game. The club has also wasted many scoring opportunities by shooting a collective 46.8% from the free-throw line. Zalgiris’s biggest strength is in the frontcourt, where Ratko Varda returns from injury to join league co-rebounding leader Loren Woods as well as Paulius Jankunas and Jonas Maciulis. Nancy will look to veteran Cyril Julian and newcomer Rod Benson to provide muscle in the paint, with rookie Amadou Aboubakar Zaki waiting in the wings, while Lamayne Wilson and Victor Samnick handle the duties at power forward. Ricardo Greer joins brother Jeff Greer plus Tchicamboud, John Cox and Michel Morandais on the perimeter, where they will try to use their combined experience to their benefit against Zygimantas Janavicius, Mantas Kalnietis and Rolandas Alijevas, with veteran Dainius Salenga helping out at small forward. These two teams are the lowest scoring in the Euroleague so far, with Nancy averaging 62 points per game and Zalgiris 59.7. The tempo could be the key this week, with Nancy looking to run, while Zalgiris hopes to slow it down and use its size in the paint. The team that sets the tempo will have an important advantage in this must-win duel.
- Ricardo Greer averaged 13.5 points on 3-for-5 three-point shooting and 3.5 steals in two games against Zalgiris for SIG Strasbourg in the 2005-06 regular season. Strasbourg lost both games. The next season, he averaged just 1 point in over 30 minutes per game for EB Pau-Orthez against Zalgiris. Pau won both games.
- This game marks the first ever between SLUC Nancy and Zalgiris Kaunas.
- The last time center Loren Woods played a Euroleague game in France, he was the competition’s MVP of the week. Woods recorded 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for a 35 index in an 84-91 road win at Le Mans last season in January.
- Zalgiris is looking to avoid its worst start to a season in seven years. The club started the 2001-02 campaign with five consecutive losses.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008