26 September, 2016
30 April, 2017
37 Mathias Michel Lessort (Nanterre 92) (photo: Claire Macel)
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FIBA Europe Cup: Group N preview

MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) - All eyes will be on Nanterre 92 to see how long the French side's unbeaten run in the FIBA Europe Cup lasts, while their Group N opponents Tsmoki Minsk, Bnei Herzliya and Kormend will do everything to make life difficult for Pascal Donnadieu's squad in the Second Round.

One of two undefeated clubs in the competition and the only one with six wins, Nanterre cruised through the Regular Season with ease, sweeping Group D that included Antwerp Giants, Sopron and FC Porto.

However, their Second Round opponents will be hoping to halt the French team's winning streak as soon as possible, with the four teams battling for the single direct qualification spot to the Round of 16.

Nanterre 92 (1st in Group D, 6-0)

With the team yet to make a single bad move in the FIBA Europe Cup, one would need to look extremely hard to find something to pick on in Nanterre's flawless Regular Season performance.

However, the French club has been consistently leaving itself with little margin for error, as they registered only two double-digit victories throughout the entire Regular Season.

Both of the double-digit margin wins came at home, as Nanterre steamrolled Sopron by 31 points and then went on to defeat Antwerp by 11 a couple of weeks later. Meanwhile, the four other victories came with a combined 23-point margin.

A number of those, however, were come-from-behind victories after excellent performances down the stretch. In fact, Nanterre have won fourth quarters in five of the six games they played this season.

Spencer Butterfield is the only player on the team averaging double figures in scoring at 15.8 points per game and the team's success, to a large degree, comes down to the depth of its roster more than anything else.

Heiko Schaffartzik and Chris Warren, who averaged 9.3 points apiece in the Regular Season, both work well with Butterfield in the backcourt, as the trio practically share all guard minutes among themselves.

Meanwhile, the frontcourt of the team includes steady producers such as Mathias Lessort, Mykal Riley, Jean-Frederic Morency and Talib Zanna. Among these players, Lessort stands out as the key cog with averages of 8.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per contest.

Tsmoki Minsk (1st in Group J, 5-1)

Having come out on top in a competitive Group J featuring two more teams who progressed to the Second Round in BK Pardubice and APOEL, Tsmoki Minsk have prepared themselves well for what will undoubtedly be a close race in the Second Round of the competition as well.

Despite booking early qualification to the next phase of the competition, the Belarusian side could have dropped to third place in the standings had they lost to the visiting APOEL on the final gameday of the Regular Season, but they took care of business comfortably. 

Play-caller Igor Griszczuk was happy with his side's performance, as the Dragons defeated  guests from Cyprus 81-68 and bounced back from a loss against Pardubice, their only defeat in the preliminary stage, the previous week.

Averaging 14.8 points, 3.2 boards and 8.5 assists, starting point guard Dru Joyce is getting it done himself and also getting his teammates involved, leading Tsmoki in scoring and assists, while fellow backcourt member Justin Gray, who missed one game due to an injury, averages an impressive 14.2 points and 3.8 boards in just 19 minutes of playing time per game.

However, coach Griszczuk's biggest advantage comes in the paint, with the Minsk team ranking third in the entire league with 40.8 rebounds per game, mostly due to the trio of Djordje Gagic, Nemanja Milosevic and Laimonas Kisielius.

Serbian giant Gagic has been a force for Tsmoki under the baskets, averaging a double-double of 14.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in just under 23 minutes of action per game.

Milosevic puts up 12.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while the versatile Lithuanian forward Kisielius chips in with a well-rounded line of 8.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals.

Bnei Herzliya (2nd in Group, 4-2)

Bnei Herzliya finished the Regular Season by claiming second place in Group F after losing out to Lukoil Academic in the tussle for the top spot in the standings due to a slightly worse point differential.

Having shared one win apiece in the games between them with identical five-point victories, the Israeli side performed slightly worse against Prievidza and Steaua CSM and had to settle for the runner-up position, qualifying to the Second Round with relative ease nonetheless.

With a ticket to the next phase already wrapped up well before the cut-off point, Bnei Herzliya did lose once more in the Regular Season, falling short 90-85 on the road against Prievidza.

However, despite the small hiccup in Slovakia, the Herzliya team has been red-hot lately, winning six of the last seven games in the FIBA Europe Cup and the Israeli Winner BSL league combined.

Karam Mashour has had an incredible season so far on the international stage, averaging 18.2 points on 53.8% accuracy from the field, 8.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.

Stephen Dennis collected 14.7 points and 3.7 assists per game, Taurean Green chipped in with 14.0 points and 5.5 dimes, while Jeff Adrien averaged out at 11.3 points, 7.7 boards and 1.3 blocks per contest.

Kormend (3rd in Group B, 3-3)

A lucky escape against Donar Groningen in the last game of the Regular Season allowed Kormend to sneak into the Second Round by nothing more than a whisker. Despite losing to the visitors from the Netherlands 79-72, the Hungarian club claimed one of the four available slots for third-placed teams.

"Kormend advanced past the preliminary stage in international competitions after nearly two decades. This is a very big achievement and we do not have to be sad after this loss," said the team's play-caller Teo Cizmic after the decisive games.

However, there are plenty of reasons to be sad for Group C side Belfius Mons-Hainaut, who were next in line among the third-placed teams in Conference 1, but got the short end of the stick in this situation after being edged out on point differential.

In the end, it was a single point that decided the fate of Kormend and their Belgian rivals. Had the Hungarian side lost by one more point, Mons-Hainaut would have qualified instead.

Nevertheless, it is Kormend, not Mons-Hainaut, that other Group N sides will have to worry about going forward and there's little reason for coach Cizmic's side to at the rear view mirror as well.

In the Regular Season, the team's leading scorer Terry Allen averaged 22.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and is responsible for the FIBA Europe Cup single game season-high of 37 points against Limburg United. At the same time, his scoring average is currently the second-best in the league only behind Sodertalje Kings forward Toni Bizaca.

Jordan LoveridgeParrish Petty, Devon Saddler and Lenzelle Smith have also been playing great basketball for the Hungarian team.