|A critical game awaits in Group A, as Le Mans hosts injury-plagued Unicaja on Wednesday night. Le Mans is looking for its first win of the season, even though, incredibly enough, it has lost all its games by 5 points or less, registering overtime defeats against Maccabi Electra and Olympiacos. Meanwhile, Unicaja is third in the group at 3-2 and its second consecutive road win would get the team closer to the Top 16. Unicaja unregistered Alfonso Sanchez and has four key players –Carlos Cabezas, Berni Rodriguez, Marcus Haislip and German Gabriel - sidelined. Cabezas could play against Le Mans, however, as he has returned to practice recently. If Cabezas remains out, Omar Cook will be his team's full-time point guard against Le Mans, with combo guard Joseph Gomis and youngster Rai Lopez backing him up. Cook is ready for an interesting battle against Brian Chase and Antoine Diot, who may also share playing time on court. Unicaja must be concerned with slowing Dewarick Spencer, who has averaged 22.5 points in the last two games. Spencer will be complemented by athletic forward Maleye Ndoye and experienced shooting ace David Bluthenthal. Spencer will test his scoring skills against Thomas Kelati, who comes off a very strong game against Maccabi. Jiri Welsch will see minute at both wing spots against Spencer, while Carlos Jimenez is ready to battle against Ndoye. Le Mans is solid around the baskets, as Bluthenthal's three-pointers open the court for Alain Koffi, Pape Badiane and Joao Paulo Batista in coach J.D. Jackson's eight-man rotation. Unicaja is missing some firepower without Haislip and Gabriel, but inked Paul Shirley to a one-month deal. Shirley is ready to offer size, experience and the occasional three-pointer. Boniface Ndong and Robert Archibald will have a tough physical battle against the entire Le Mans frontcourt, with Vitor Faverani ready to offer help off the bench. Unicaja must get Cook and Haislip involved to keep its options alive. Le Mans must be patient in offense, get Spencer and Bluthenthal involved, as well as locking the defensive board - the hosts are second-last in the Euroleague at just 17.4 boards per game.
- After starting the season shooting 2 for 14 from downtown in his opening three games, guard Dewarick Spencer has made 7 of 15 three-pointers in his last two contests, averaging 22.5 points per game in that stretch.
- Teenager Antoine Diot is spending more time at point guard recently and last week set a Euroleague career high with 6 assists.
- Forward David Bluthenthal set a career high with 43 minutes played in last week’s overtime loss against Olympiacos. It was the second time in three games that Bluthenthal has played more than 40 minutes. He currently leads the Euroleague in minutes played this season with 38:24 per game.
- Swingman Jiri Welsch needs just 3 more steals to reach 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Center Boniface NDong has scored in double figures in all five games so far this season. Last year, he reached double figures only six times in 19 appearances.
- Unicaja big man Paul Shirley will make his Euroleague debut if he sees action in Wednesday’s game at Le Mans. Shirley is as well-known for his off-court activities, including his ESPN blog and working on a television pilot based on his basketball career, as he is for his on-court abilities.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008