Two teams with high hopes but rough starts to the Euroleague Basketball season meet on Tuesday in Istanbul when Fenerbahce Ulker host Lottomatica Roma in a Group C clash. Both teams have started out 0-2, but have had plenty of good to take with them from those matches. However a 0-3 start could damn them both in the standings and psychologically, and neither team wants to risk that. Fener has shown spirit in closing big early deficits to challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona in its first two games, but both times didn't have enough in the tank to pull off the victory. With a full roster available, coach Bogdan Tanjevic has a deep squad that boasts experience and youth and can attack inside and outside. Point guard Willie Solomon is the team's offensive leader, while the sweet-shooting Ibrahim Kutluay and rebounding ace Mirsad Turkcan are also big threats. Roma, which is playing its third straight game on the road, has suffered a pair of narrow defeats, first at Panathinaikos and then at Real Madrid. Coach Jasmin Repesa's squad's biggest strength is in the backcourt, where five senior players have big roles, led by playmaker Roko-Leni Ukic, the current league-leader in assists, and red-hot shooter Jon Stefansson. Inside, Roma boasts veteran Gregor Fucka and Erazem Lorbek, the Euroleague Week 2 co-MVP, however injuries to Erik Daniel and Christian Drejer have the club strapped up front, which could be a key for Fener, which has five rotation players at 2.06 meters or more. Among the exciting head-to-head matchups could be Solomon against Roma's defensive ace David Hawkins, or Lorbek going against Turkcan. Both teams are also frequent three-point shooters and whichever side has the hotter hand on the night could walk away victorious. Although it is early in the season, the pressure will be on both teams as they essentially have their backs to the wall, making for a playoff type atmosphere at the always packed Abdi Ipekci Sports Hall.
Monday, November 5, 2007