In-form Donar hope to continue ascent against SL Benfica
GRONINGEN (FIBA Europe Cup) - Donar Groningen have put their name back into the Round of 16 conversation in the FIBA Europe Cup after handing Group P leaders BC Enisey an unexpected loss in Krasnoyarsk last week.
Still an outsider in the race for one of the two top spots in the standings, the Dutch side trail group leaders Enisey and Lukoil Academic, both of whom have a 3-1 record, by one in the win column at 2-2.
However, Donar could very well finish the week as the second-placed team in Group P as they will face bottom-of-the-pack SL Benfica at the MartiniPlaza in Groningen, while the two teams ahead of them will be involved in their own tussle.
There is cautious optimism in Groningen ahead of Tuesday's clash, with coach Erik Braal's side going into the game as heavy favorites after coming away with a relatively convincing 94-82 victory against Benfica on the road in Lisbon.
The savvy 32-year-old veteran Drago Pasalic had a field day against the Portuguese frontcourt, finishing the game with a double-double of 21 points and 14 rebounds, while his partner in crime Chase Fieler chipped in with 22 points and 7 boards.
Another great win last night.— Drago Pasalic (@Drago_Pasalic) January 15, 2017
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In addition to the aforementioned big man duo, Benfica head coach Carlos Lisboa will also have to worry about Donar's playmaker Lance Jeter, who has been sensational throughout the season, averaging 18.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game in the FIBA Europe Cup.
Meanwhile, the talented all-around forward Damian Hollis, likely to match up against FIBA Europe Cup single game efficiency record-holder Fieler, has been carrying the biggest load for the Portuguese side, collecting 17.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
While Benfica are dead in the water in Group P having lost all four games so far, Donar could move up to second place already this week with a win against the Eagles, depending on the result of the other game in the group on Wednesday.
Having already played twice against Enisey, Groningen have secured a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage against the Russian side, but an 88-62 loss to Lukoil Academic in Bulgaria has left a significant chink on Donar's armor, especially as a three-way tie between these tree teams is not out of the question.
However, one thing is clear — the Dutch side will have to take care of business against Benfica on Tuesday at 19:00 CET before a calculator becomes a necessity for coach Erik Braal and his assistants.