26 September, 2016
30 April, 2017
5 Mihail Paul (Steaua CSM), 22 Pavlin Ivanov (Lukoil Academic) (Photo: Catalin Soare)
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FIBA Europe Cup: Group P preview

MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) - The last FIBA Europe Cup group, Group P, features a well-rounded mix of teams, headlined by Bulgarian outfit Lukoil Academic who are the only club of the bunch to have won their group in the Regular Season.

However, the team from Sofia will face tough opposition from Donar Groningen, BC Enisey Krasnoyarsk and SL Benfica in what possibly is the most evenly matched group in the Second Round.

For Benfica and Enisey, the seeding was not all that kind, as the westmost and eastmost teams of the competition will have to spend quite a few hours in air when they visit each other in the longest FIBA Europe Cup away trip ever.

Lukoil Academic (1st in Group F, 4-2)

Lukoil Academic had no trouble getting through to the Second Round for the second year in a row, finishing with identical 4-2 records in the Regular Season on both occasions.

Having finished first in Group F in spite of two losses, one each to Bnei Herzliya and Prievidza, the expectations for the Bulgarian club will be slightly higher this time around after managing only a single win in the Second Round last year.

Academic led the standings for almost the entirety of the Regular Season after topping their main rivals for the top spot, Bnei Herzliya, 78-73 in the season-opening game that went to overtime.

Although the Israeli side managed to get revenge at home by an identical five-point victory margin, the Sofia club had a better overall point differential, which allowed them to finish ahead.

Danny Gibson leads the team in scoring and assists with 16.0 points and 4.8 assists per game, respectively. Meanwhile, averaging a double-double of 13.7 points and 10.2 boards, Stephen Zack has been one of the top rebounders in the entire league.

Pavlin Ivanov also chips in with 13.7 points per game, while Maksym Korniienko is proving to be an excellent addition with averages of 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds. Sasa Zagorac is the only other player in double figures at 11.5 points and 4.0 boards per game.

Donar Groningen (2nd place in Group B, 4-2)

With their backs against the wall at the end of Regular Season in Group B, Donar Groningen lived to fight another day in the FIBA Europe Cup by defeating Kormend in a do-or-die game on the road in Hungary.

Having otherwise been eliminated, the Dutch side grabbed second place in Group B with a 4-2 record and entered the Second Round of the competition for the first time after failing to do so last season.

The team’s only losses came by single digits against group winners BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque, falling short 79-70 at home in Groningen and then losing 71-67 on the road in France.

Throughout the Regular Season, the team’s playmaker Lance Jeter was the man in charge on the court, averaging 20.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game and ranking third in the league in scoring.

Drago Pasalichas also been playing well with averages of 15.2 points and 6.7 boards per game, Jason Dourisseau collected 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds, while Sean Cunningham is the only other player in double figures with an average of 10.2 points per game.

However, at least for one round of action, the spotlight was stolen by Chase Fieler, who set a new FIBA Europe Cup single game efficiency record by registering 24 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks against Limburg United for a total ranking of 46.

Enisey Krasnoyarsk (2nd in Group H, 4-2)

Enisey were cruising in the FIBA Europe Cup and would have likely finished first in Group H, had coach Oleg Okulov not rested some of their key players in the final two weeks of action.

However, after going 4-0 to start their international campaign, the Siberian team from Krasnoyarsk lost its final two games against Demir Insaat and Sigal Prishtina, sliding down to second place in the standings.


In spite of their second seed, the Russian side, for all intents and purposes, has their sights set on reaching the Final Four of the FIBA Europe Cup for the second year in a row.

Frank Elegar has been driving the Enisey bus forward, averaging 17.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.3 blocks per game. The 30-year-old American big man has been ‘Mr. Regular Season’ and leads the league in efficiency, rebounds and blocks, but could miss the start of the Second Round due to an injury.

Tony Taylor, in his second season with Enisey, is putting up 16.0 points, 3.8 boards and 5.8 assists per game, while Malik Wayns and

Suleiman Braimoh are also in double figures, averaging 13.2 and 10.2 points respectively.

Enisey, second in the league in scoring at 89.7 points per game and among the best teams in various other categories, has shown itself to be an elite team when it has its full roster.

However, the Krasnoyarsk side has simply not been the same without Elegar and need him in full fitness to once again be considered a contender for the Final Four.

SL Benfica (3rd in Group A, 3-3)

SL Benfica were one of the four teams to reach the Second Round despite finishing third in their Regular Season group. Quite interestingly, though, the Lisbon side actually booked its ticket to the Second Round before the teams that finished ahead of them in Group A.

Having already improved on last season’s performance in the FIBA Europe Cup by virtue of qualifying to the next phase, SL Benfica showed glimpses of their true potential throughout the preliminary round, but lacked consistency for the most part.

Although it did not have any major implications on the standings, the Befica’s play-caller Carlos Lisboa’s side handed an 80-75 victory to the previously winless Brussels Basketball side in the final game day of the Regular Season.

“We could have won, but ended up losing. That does not influence our performance in the FIBA Europe Cup. Our goal was to do better than we did last season and we have already accomplished it. We feel satisfied, but also want to continue to perform well,” the coach reflected on the game and the whole international season so far.

Wearing an usual jersey number 96, Damian Hollis was in fact the number one option for Lisboa offensively, averaging a team-high 18.0 points and adding 5.2 rebounds per game. Raven Barber and Carlos Morais are also in the double-digit zone with 14.3 and 12.5 points per game respectively.