The race for the Top 16 in Group C will see two teams with a common goal go against each other in Thessaloniki, Greece, where Aris TT Bank hosts Eldo Napoli on Wednesday at 19:45 CET. Aris (4-5) is fifth in Group C and just lost its first home game against current Euroleague champion, CSKA Moscow. Meanwhile, Napoli (3-6) is sixth and on a two-game winning streak. Both teams faced each other in Napoli on November 8, when Eldo beat Aris 71-69 on free throws by Valerio Spinelli (4 ppg.) with 4.9 seconds to go. Alessandro Cittadini (6.8 ppg., 5.3 rpg.) led the winners with 12 points while Mason Rocca (11.6 ppg., 6.4 rpg.) ruled the boards with 14 rebounds. Alex Scales (15.1 ppg.) paced Aris with 17 points that night. Napoli has improved with Spinelli, Michel Morandais (10 ppg., 4.9 rpg.) and even Tyrone Ellis (8 ppg., 3.4 apg.) sharing the point guard duties. Morandais posted a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds against Zalgiris, while Ellis had season highs of 18 points and 8 assists in that win. They round a strong Napoli perimeter also featuring Matteo Malaventura (6.5 ppg.), three-point threat Jay Larranaga (4.7 ppg.) and steals specialist Jeff Trepagnier (10.9 ppg., 1.4 spg.), who has finally found his rhythm back. Aris has in Scales its main perimeter reference, but defensive ace Giorgos Sigalas (2.4 rpg.), scoring machine Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (5.9 ppg.) and slasher Savvas Iliadis (6.7 ppg.) round a deep, solid backcourt in which anyone can shine in offense. They will all need to make up for the missing production from playmaker Terrell Castle (9.3 ppg., 2.6 apg.), who underwent surgery for appendicitis on New Year's Day and will miss two weeks. Aris has found its own dynamic duo in center Mike Wilkinson (13.3 ppg., 5.8 rpg.) and power forward Jeremiah Massey (12.4 ppg., 8.4 rpg.), who combine for most of the minutes at both spots. Massey is a rebounding specialist to loves to attack the basket to take the outside shot. Wilkinson provides his all-around offensive skills, range and post moves. As such, Kevin Fletcher and Giannis Giannoulis will only see extended playing time if any of them gets in foul trouble. Napoli will try to do so, as Rocca is ready to challenge everyone under the rims, Ansu Sesay (7.9 ppg., 4.3 rpg.) can either score inside or take the outside shot while Cittadini will have an interesting matchup with Wilkinson, who has been unstoppable lately. If Aris, pushed by its incredible, devoted crowd, manages to slow down the tempo and look for its big men in the middle, it will have the most chances to win. Napoli needs strong defense, a fluent offense and take Aris into foul trouble to see its chances improve. One way or another, a big game is on its way in Group C.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007