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hap jlem tapiro 298.88.(Photo by: Asaf Kliger)
ULEB Cup: Jerusalem prepares to host Sofia
Allon Sinai
12/19/2006
Jerusalem (3-4) is in desperate need of a second consecutive win in European play to solidify its place among the top four teams in Group C.
On TV: Hapoel Jerusalem vs Academic Sofia (live at 7 p.m. on Channel 1) The latest chapter in Hapoel Jerusalem's roller coaster season will be written on Tuesday evening when the side faces Academic Sofia in the ULEB Cup at Malha Arena. Jerusalem (3-4) is in desperate need of a second consecutive win in European play to solidify its place among the top four teams in Group C and advance to the knockout stages of the competition. "We constantly speak of the team's instability, but we can't put our finger on why this happens," Hapoel coach Dan Shamir said. "I believe in the potential of this team and every day we assess what needs to be done. Our problem is that we only show our ability fleetingly." Hapoel stunned Montepaschi Siena in Italy last week and will be eager to settle the score with Sofia, which defeated the Israelis 68-66 in Game 3 of the ULEB Cup. Academic (4-3) only averages 73 points per game and is the worst free throw shooting team in the competition (61 percent). Nevertheless, the Bulgarians score well (55 percent) from two point range and will have a player on their side who will feel right at home in the Malha Arena. Lamont Jones (15.4 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.1 rpg) will play in Israel for the first time since spending five years with Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Galil Elyon and will be crucial in his side's play. Jones is the barometer of Sofia's game and slowing him down will be vital to Jerusalem's victory aspirations. The American is complemented in the backcourt by Macedonian Riste Stefanov (14.1 ppg) who is in excellent form scoring a career high 32 points in his sides loss last week to Alba Berlin. Experienced shooter Todor Stoykov (12.3 ppg) and veteran Croatian center Mete Skelin (7 ppg, 7 rpg) will be looking to rebound on Tuesday from their poor performance last week in which they only combined for 11 points. Hapoel has failed so far this season to win consecutive games in the ULEB Cup, but will have a great chance of finally doing so against Academic. Jerusalem averages 82.2 points per game and a similar amount of points on Tuesday will likely guarantee victory with the Bulgarians not managing to score more than 67 points in any of their three road games.
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