Quarter-Finals preview: Elan Chalon v Cibona
CHALON-SUR-SAONE (FIBA Europe Cup) - The international campaigns of Elan Chalon and Cibona Zagreb will be put on the line on Tuesday, when the sides meet for the gladiator-style do-or-die return leg of the FIBA Europe Cup Quarter-Final tie in France.
With the first three Semi-Finalists already known, the spotlight will be exclusively on the week's only match-up at Le Colisee, which quite symbolically just so happened to serve as the venue of last year's Final Four.
Whichever team grabs the last remaining ticket will get a date with Telenet Oostende in the Semi-Finals, who knocked out Enisey Krasnoyarsk in the previous round. The other side of the bracket has pitted Nanterre 92 against Telekom Baskets.
In spite of the fact that the first game in Zagreb was nipped 87-85 by Cibona, the tie remains closely-contested in large part due to a record-shattering performance by Elan Chalon playmaker John Roberson, who scored a competition all-time best 39 points.
The 28-year-old American guard also broke the FIBA Europe Cup record by knocking down 10-of-11 three-pointers, but quite incredibly this mark has already been one-upped by Spencer Butterfield of Nanterre.
"We played a good game, but we need to play better on defense. They had a lot of easy shots. We need to play them more aggressively to win against them at home," said the red-hot Roberson in the post-game press conference.
In general, the first leg was defined by the ball-handlers of both teams. Although Roberson might have stolen most of the oohs-and-aahs, Cibona point guard Scottie Reynolds more than held his own, posting a 20-point, 15 assist double-double, as well as adding 5 steals.
No player has dished out more dimes in a single game throughout the history of FIBA Europe Cup Play-Offs. That translated to his teammates as well, with the Croatian side leading Elan Chalon with a handsome 30-19 edge in the assist category.
"With all the problems we are facing right now, I am very satisfied. This is an important win for us. We showed our real character and everyone gave their best," stated Damir Mulaomerovic, the head coach of the Cibona, sparkling with pride.
While the team's play-caller was satisfied with the first leg, achieving a positive result on the road in France will be made significantly more difficult by the departure of one of the team's key players Nik Slavica, a high-flying NBA prospect, who parted ways with Cibona just before the trip to Chalon-sur-Saone.
Up until now, all seven Quarter-Final games have been won by home teams, which should give Elan Chalon some optimism before the home leg, especially considering the gap is very small.
"We didn't win the first game, but being down by 2 points is better than down by 15. The second half of the tie will be as if the score is 0-0. It's an entirely new game and nothing is set yet," said the French side's coach Jean-Denys Choulet.