Two teams looking to bounce back from Week 1 struggles meet on Thursday when AXA FC Barcelona hosts Fenerbahce Ulker in a Group C encounter. Barca was upset 81-78 at Partizan Igokea, while Fenerbahce fell to Real Madrid 72-80. Barcelona head coach Dusko Ivanovic saw some highs and lows on his team in that game. Jaka Lakovic was effective as always with 21 points and 4 assists, Pepe Sanchez peppered the courts for 9 assists and just 1 turnover, while starting center Mario Kasun tallied 13 points. On the other hand, Kasun fouled out in just 15 minutes, Michel Morandais went down during the game with an injury and the rest of the interior defense was porous, allowing Partizan to control the paint and score the win. Meanwhile, Fenerbahce was down 20 after 10 minutes to Madrid, which highlights a concern for head coach Bogdan Tanjevic. On the other hand, Mirsdad Turkcan led the team back to within 4 in the fourth quarter, which shows the team's character. In addition to Turkcan and his consistent dose of 18 points and 10 rebounds, Damir Kaan and Ibrahim Kutluay combined to net 9 three-pointers, which were key in the team's comeback attempt. What's more, point guard Willie Solomon should be back for the trip to Spain this week. Historically this matchup favors Barcelona, which is 9-2 all-time against Fener, including winning the last five. Fenerbahce hasn't beaten Barcelona since 2000 and has never won in Barcelona. With Solomon back and joining Kaan, Omer Onan and Hakan Demirel in the backourt, Fenerbahce will challenge Barca's rotation of Sanchez, Lakovic and Gianluca Basile. The hosts small forward Alex Acker will try to bounce back from a rough start against Fener's Kutluay and athletic backup James White. In the paint, Barcelona brings plenty of versatility, with Kasun, Fran Vazquez, Albert Moncasi, Ersan Ilyasova, Jordi Trias and veteran Denis Marconato, as of last week Euroleague Basketball's all-time games-played leader. They will give different looks against Fenerbahce's frontline of Turkcan, Gasper Vidmar, Emir Preldzic, Oguz Savas and Semih Erden. Despite the depth both teams display inside, unless one of the bigs gets red-hot, this game is likely to be decided from the backcourt, with all signs pointing to Sanchez and Solomon. Barca's new playmaker has all the skills to produce points for others, which combined with Lakovic's steady scoring makes Barca tough. However if Tanjevic can find a way to stop him, it could cut off a steady stream of points for the hosts. On the other hand, Solomon has proven that when hot, he can carry a team anywhere. And his penetration skills could open things up for the many shooters on Fenerbahce to do their job. So keep an eye on the coach's tactics for shutting down those point guards as an interesting game develops in Barcelona.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007