19 September, 2017
02 May, 2018
49 Mindaugas Kupsas | Photo: Vytautas Gimzauskas
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Who got the best grades on the first leg of the Quarter-Finals?

MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) - The first-leg action of the Quarter-Finals brought along some interesting results. Taking a look at the eight teams remaining in the FIBA Europe Cup, we hand out grades to each of them based their performances and expectations.



It is springtime and nothings seems to be enough to feed the hunger of the Bakken Bears. Having devoured Ventspils in the Round of 16, they pounced on ESSM Le Portel with the same sort of ferociousness and came away with a 76-62 victory in the first leg. The only reason the Danish champions did not get an A+ this week was the fact they were not able to hold on to a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter. Still, one hell of a performance for these dangerous beasts of the wild!


Donar Groningen will not feel too disappointed with their trip to Montenegro, despite picking up a 73-67 defeat against Mornar Bar. Keeping in mind that Oostende left the Topolica Sports Hall with big, fat -30 just the other week, losing by a six-point margin shouldn't send coach Erik Braal into a state of depression. That being said, Donar were far from their best and will need Brandyn Curry and Evan Bruinsma to step up in the return fixture.


Can you feel an uncanny sense of déjà vu in the air? After needing to climb a mountain to survive in the Round of 16, ESSM Le Portel fell into the same trap and suffered a double-digit, 76-62, defeat in the first leg against Bakken Bears in Denmark. Unlike against Dinamo Sassari in the previous round, when it all came down to one terrible quarter, Eric Girard's side looked truly outmatched. No one is silly enough to rule out a second-leg comeback at Le Chaudron, but Le Portel might soon run out of luck if the same story continues.


The plucky underdogs from Lithuania just can't catch a break and shake off that injury bug that has been bothering them. Having had to play the first Quarter-Final leg without Anthony Ireland, Juventus Utena held on to take a 77-77 draw against the big-name Sidigas Scandone Avellino, but lost Kenny Gaines for the season in the process. It is pretty remarkable what the severely handicapped Lithuanian side managed to accomplish and it would be even more so if they got a positive result in Italy. 


A win is a win and it would be unfair to expect Mornar Bar to beat all of their Play-Off opponents by exorbitant margins at home, but a 73-67 victory over Donar Groningen looks pretty shaky. Considering they are just 2-5 on the road in the FIBA Europe Cup this season, they certainly could have used a couple more makes by a trigger-happy Derek Needham, who needed 22 field goals to get to a game-high 20 points.


Nizhny Novgorod got a first-hand experience of how dangerous Umana Reyer Venezia can be, putting together a fine well-rounded display in Italy, yet still returning to Russia with a double-digit deficit weighing them down. One person who deserves a lot of praise is Stevan Jelovac, who dropped 28 points and at least kept the scoreline manageable, 86-76. While not in an ideal position before the return fixture, Nizhny Novgorod are still in a position to contend for a spot in the Semi-Finals.


Having taken a liking to the concept of finishing Play-Off games in draws, Sidigas Scandone Avellino kept the status quo against Juventus Utena in the away fixture. It would be hard to argue that they were the better team than the short-handed Lithuanians in a 77-77 contest, but it might have more to do with Juventus playing a solid game than Avellino under-performing. On a side note, the battle between Kyrylo Fesenko and Mindaugas Kupsas gets a thumbs up for bringing the good old big man days back.


If it weren't for Hrvoje Peric and Austin Daye, Umana Reyer Venezia would probably not be up 86-76 against Nizhny Novgorod in the Quarter-Finals. If anything, they might be behind. But they did…and they aren't. Peric and Daye combined for 49 points and seemingly effortlessly carried the Italians to victory on the back of some lights-out shooting. The scary thing for Reyer Venezia's opponents is that there is so much talent on the team, it is almost a certainty that someone will step up on any given day. Then again, a 10-point lead in Russia is hardly a lead at all.