Hapoel Jerusalem looks to secure its progress to the Eurocup eighth-finals in Kiev on Wednesday night, while Maccabi Haifa aims to overcome the loss of a key player to a season-ending injury in a crucial visit to Italy.
Jerusalem has won 10 straight BSL games and claimed its fifth consecutive Eurocup victory last week to improve to 3-0 in Last 32 Group M. Hapoel beat Budivelnik Kiev 88-84 at Malha Arena to extend its impressive run.
Jerusalem visits Kiev (1-2) on Wednesday, knowing a win will book a place in the knockout rounds of the competition with two Last 32 games to spare.
The top two teams from each of the eight Last 32 groups will advance to the eighth-finals.
A 12-2 fourth-quarter run saw Jerusalem come back to claim a win over Kiev last week, with Josh Duncan and Yotam Halperin leading the way.
Blake Ahearn led seven Kiev players in double figures with 16 points, with the Ukrainians torching the hosts in the first half by scoring 11-of-19 threepoint attempts, only to hit 2-of-11 shots from beyond the arc after the break.
“We didn’t succeed in stopping Kiev in the first half and they scored 56 points, but in the second half we locked down on defense and held them to 28,” said Jerusalem coach Brad Greenberg. “Our guards worked very hard because of mismatches and you can see that Kiev scored half as many points in the second half as they did in the first. We are in a good position, but we still have a lot of work to do to advance to the next stage. “ Haifa crushed Montepaschi Siena 86-66 at Romema Arena to improve to 2-1 in Group K last week and defeated Maccabi Rishon Lezion for its fifth win in its past six BSL contests on Sunday.
However, it lost Ike Ofoegbu to a season-ending knee injury on Sunday, leaving a massive void in the roster. The Nigerian forward averaged 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in 13 Eurocup encounters this season, playing over 26 minutes per game.
Haifa intends to sign a replacement, but in the meantime it will need other players on the roster to step up, starting from Wednesday’s visit of Siena (0-3) in Italy.
After missing a month through injury, Moran Roth played arguably his best game of the season for Haifa last week, scoring 21 points and registering six assists.
“I missed playing and missed my team. We have a team of men without egos, who fight and play for each other and that’s our secret,” he said. “It’s great to beat Siena and we are hoping to win in Italy as well.”
With Ofoegbu missing, Haifa will depend on Roth and the team’s undoubted star, Donta Smith, even more than usual.
Smith was named as the Eurocup’s weekly MVP last week after registering an index rating of 40. He claimed his second weekly MVP award of the season by leading the Greens’ to the victory over Seina with a perfect shooting night for 24 points, while also amassing six rebounds, two steals, one block and three drawn fouls.
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