Hapoel Jerusalem guard Curtis Jerrells has built on his excellent form in the Eurocup regular season at the start of the Top 16, averaging 23.5 points through the first two games ahead of tonight’s clash with Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia..
(photo credit: DANNY MAROM)
Hapoel Jerusalem will only reach the midway point of its Eurocup Top 16 campaign on Wednesday night, but it can already take a massive step towards securing its progress to the quarterfinals should it beat Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia.
Jerusalem leads Group G with a 2-0 record after claiming an impressive 98-76 win over Nizhny Novgorod of Russia last week on the back of a comeback from 20 points down and an 80-76 victory at Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius in Lithuania.
With the top two teams to advance to the quarterfinals, and with each side only playing six games in total, every win is significant, even more so if it comes on the road.
Hapoel hosts Zenit and Vilnius in its following two contests before completing its group games in Novgorod.
“Anytime you are in the Top 16, every win is a great win. At the same time, it’s not the time to think about qualification, because now we play two games with the best team in the group Zenit St. Petersburg and anything can happen,” said Jerusalsem coach Simone Pianigiani. “We won two games in a row, but the level of these teams means we could also go on and lose four games in a row.
“We can compete with everybody and we’ve shown that.”
Jerusalem enters the game on the back of its longest winning streak of the season, registering its fifth victory in a row over all competitions with an easy 100- 75 triumph over Hapoel Gilboa/ Galil in BSL action on Saturday.
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Jerusalem will be aiming to build on its promising play on both defense and offense, holding opponents to 66.6 points per game over its streak while scoring an average of 87.0 points.
Zenit has a 1-1 record, bouncing back from a surprise 113-105 loss to Nizhny with an 88-79 victory over Vilnius. The Russians are led by Ryan Toolson, who is tied for the top scoring spot in the competition (21.1 ppg). He is followed closely by the MVP of Top 16 Round 2, Janis Timma (17.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.4 apg), and by the competition’s assists leader Stefan Markovic (11.8 ppg, 9.4 apg).
Elsewhere Wednesday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion hosts group leader Le Mans (9-3) in a crucial game to its hopes of progressing in the FIBA Champions League.
Rishon suffered an 81-71 defeat at Avtodor Saratov in Russia last week, falling to 5-7 in Group B and a three-way tie for fifth place with Saratov and Oradea of Romania, one game back of Kataja of Finland in fourth place.
Each team has two more regular season games to play, with the top four teams from each group and the four best ranked fifth-placed teams to progress to the playoffs.
On Tuesday, Ironi Nahariya (4-8), which was one game back of fifth place in Group A, hosted Bakken Bears (1-11) of Denmark.
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