10 - 12
February 2023
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Third-Place Game preview: Which one of Vipers, Monastir will restart engines first?

TENERIFE (Spain) - The Rio Grande Valley Vipers endured a disastrousย four-minute stretch in the second quarter of their Semi-Final against Sao Paulo, while US Monastir's bad experience lasted for all 40 minutes of their Semi-Final against Lenovo Tenerife. The Third-Place Game on Sunday presents both with the opportunity to bounce back and leave Tenerife on a high note.

How did they get here?

The reigning NBA G League champions didn't manage to play their gameย against BCL Americas champs Sao Paulo in the Semi-Final. It was just a six-point game after the first quarter, but a 9-0 run to start the second was enough for the Brazilians to put some daylight between the two teams and never look back again.

It finished 91-70,ย  as the Vipers got 17 points from Shawn Occeus, while Jarrett Culver picked up an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double. Cassius Stanley scored 13, Jalen Lecque had nine of his 10 in the first quarter, but coach Kevin Burleson needs more to avoid a repetition of a fourth-place finish in Tenerife, as it was the case for the Vipers back in 2020.

Meanwhile, US Monastir had a lot of winning experience from the BAL and the Tunisian domestic competitions but Lenovo Tenerife did not allow them to show even glimpses of that on Friday as the Spanish team led from start to finish in a 112-42 victory.

Jerome Randle had 14 points, Michael Roll put up 11 for US Monastir, but only four other players contributed any scoring, learning the hard way why Tenerife are dubbed as the best defensive team of the BCL in Europe.

All that was on Friday. What do they need to do to win on Sunday?

For the Vipers, it's going to be about shot-making and keeping the pace under control. They are one of the top-five teams in the NBA G League in terms of three-pointers made, but were held to 7-of-30 from beyond the arc on Friday, never getting a chance to connect with the basket consistently and go on a run.

The Vipers also turned the ball over 18 times, which isn't all that bad when you consider the number alone. But out of those 18 turnovers, a gigantic number of 16 were also Sao Paulo's steals, keeping the Americans on the back foot the entire time.

For US Monastir, any change from that first-ever taste they had in FIBA Intercontinental Cup 2023. will be an improvement. With the Vipers being a solid offensive rebounding team, the BAL winners should pay extra attention to the boards, because they had only 14 rebounds in the Semi-Finals.

Scoring is a big issue, too. Jerome Randle and Michael Roll will need more help from their teammates, trying to reignite that flame that led seven of these 12 guys to the FIBA AfroBasket title back in 2021.

What will be the key matchup?

Michael Roll may be 35, but he's still got all the moves to create his own shot off the dribble or go straight up on his catch-and-shoot situations. He went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc against Lenovo Tenerife, while his teammates only made five shots on 22 tries.

Cassius Stanley will have to match Roll's scoring and intensity. But, most importantly, he will have to hide his age, not biting on Roll's fakes and not getting nervous if/when US Monastir make a couple of shots in a row. Stanley is 23, so he must use his youth to outrun the experienced shooting guard.

When and where is the game taking place?

Sunday, February 12, at 18:00 local time (GMT), in the Santiago Martin Arena in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain.