(photo credit: AP)
When Maccabi Tel Aviv signed Terence Morris earlier this summer it was clear to both club and player what role he was expected to play on the team. Score a few points here, grab a couple rebounds there, and especially hustle for the team on both ends of the court.
Maccabi's poor start to the season, however, has changed all the team's initial plans and thrust Morris into the limelight.
The American forward leads the team in scoring (9.6 per game), rebounds (5.6) and blocks (1.4) and even more importantly has already hit two winning baskets for the side in the Euroleague.
Maccabi (5-2) will be counting on Morris to continue his excellent form on Thursday night against Le Mans in France.
The yellow-and-blue has won three straight games in European basketball's premier competition, but will be under intense scrutiny on Thursday after losing two consecutive games in the BSL.
The team was humiliated by Bnei Hasharon and Hapoel Holon in its last two league games, increasing the pressure on coach Oded Katash to near-unbearable levels.
"We had less time to prepare for this game because we played against Holon on Monday and the trip to Le Mans is a little bit longer than the usual, but we'll be ready for this game," Katash, who refused to speak to the Israeli media, told the Euroleague Web site on Wednesday.
"We don't underestimate Le Mans, despite the fact that they haven't won so far. Maybe that makes them a little more dangerous. We're not in the best shape ourselves, and we're not used to being in this situation, losing twice in a row in the Israeli league. We'll analyze what happened and think of how to improve the team."
Le Mans (0-7), which lost 74-71 at the Nokia Arena when the teams met earlier this season, has been unlucky so far in the Euroleague, losing six of its seven games by nine points or less.
Sam Clancy (14.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) averages almost five minutes more than any of his teammates (32 mpg) and has scored in double-figures in all seven of his team's games.
Luka Bogdanovic (10.3 ppg) has struggled with his form lately, but Israeli Raviv Limonad (9.6 ppg, 4 apg) has picked up his play in response and had his best game of the season last week, scoring 20 points and passing five assists in his side's 73-61 home defeat to Armani Jeans Milano.
"Obviously it will be a tough game but we have to win it," Limonad told the Euroleague Web site. "We are hungry for a win and we have to prove to ourselves that we are able to make it. Our fans deserve to see us winning in the Euroleague."
Le Mans coach Vincent Collet said: "We should have won the first game in Tel Aviv, but we missed our chance at the end of the game. Our problems of finishing off games in the Euroleague began in that important first encounter."
Yotam Halperin (8.9 ppg, 3.1 apg), who is on court more than any other player at Maccabi (28 mpg), was confident of his team's chances against Le Mans.
"We have an excellent team with many qualities. The outcome of the game depends on us," the Israeli guard said on Wednesday.
"We shouldn't dwell on what has happened recently. If we win this game we will be in an excellent position in the group. We just have to go out on court and get the job done," he added.
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