Sink or swim? Sodertalje and Mures in battle to stay afloat in Group K
SODERTALJE (FIBA Europe Cup) – The stakes will be raised high for Sodertalje Kings and Mures, when the two winless Group K sides meet on Tuesday evening in Sweden, marking the end of the winter break in the FIBA Europe Cup.
After starting the Second Round with a pair of losses against Elan Chalon and Gaziantep, both teams find themselves in situations that are far from ideal and a win in the head-to-head clash would provide a much-needed morale boost.
However, competition for a spot in the Round of 16 is fierce and it will be an uphill struggle even for the winner of the fixture to get back into contention for one of the eight available places in the next phase.
The Kings showed more promise in the first two games, falling short against Gaziantep 72-66 in Turkey and losing 86-63 against the John Roberson-led Elan Chalon at home in Sodertalje.
Meanwhile, Mures have the worst point differential in the Second Round after suffering a 101-65 thumping in Chalon-sur-Saone and did only marginally better against Gaziantep in Targu Mures, coming up short 90-76.
Toni Bizaca of Sodertalje remains not only the key figure in his team, but also the top scorer in the entire FIBA Europe Cup, averaging 24.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, failing to reach the 20-point mark only once this season back in October.
However, the 34-year-old Croatian's efficiency has dropped off drastically in the Second Round, as teams have concentrated more of their defensive efforts on the floor-stretching big man.
Having shot the ball at a remarkable 57% clip from the field in the Regular Season, Bizaca has only made 37% since the start of the second phase of the competition and his turnover numbers are up from 1.0 to 3.0 per game.
While defense been at the heart of all problems for Mures, the team's key players Alhaji Mohammed, averaging a team-high 16.2 points, and Goran Martinic, always a double-double threat at 11.7 points and 8.8 assists per game, often found themselves not receiving sufficient help from the rest of the squad.
Head coach Barnabas Szaszgaspar has tried to address the issue by bringing back a Mures old-timer Goran Gajovic, who got already a significant run in his FIBA Europe Cup season debut.
Having played a team-high 32 minutes, the 28-year-old newcomer finished the game with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting and will be a big X-factor heading into Tuesday's clash against Sodertalje.
Who will sink and who will swim; which of the teams will prolong their FIBA Europe Cup campaign?
You can watch the game LIVE and FREE on YouTube.com/FIBA at 19:00 CET.