Eurocup: four more clubs make Last 32

As Round 8 of the 2015/2016 Eurocup Regular Season wrapped on Wednesday, there were four more clubs celebrating punching their tickets to the Last 32. Bilbao Basket, Herbalife Gran Canaria, CAI Zaragoza, and Avtodor Russia all tasted success and in the process advanced to the next round. Of course, there were plenty more talking points this week as clubs jostled for position in the quest to fill the remaining qualification berths.

Group A
Telekom Baskets Bonn is running out of time in the Eurocup qualification picture, dropping to 2-6 at the foot of Group A thanks to an 88-93 home loss to Union Olimpija Ljubljana. The winners from Ljubljana improve to 4-4 in sole possession of third place. 24 points from Sava Levic helped the visitors control the game throughout, although Bonn made it nervy in the fourth act with a late rally.

Bilbao Basket entered the Last 32 of this season’s Eurocup with a 73-68 win over EWE Baskets Oldenburg. The triumph pushed Bilbao through with 6-2 record, while EWE Baskets of Germany fights another day from 3-5 in a winning share for fourth. The Spanish host closed a losing halftime deficit and carried all the momentum in the second half of this contest, paced by Darius Bertans with 15 points.

Group B
Le Mans Sarthe Basket received a stay of execution by defeating ALBA Berlin 80-86 in Germany. The French club moved to 3-5 in Group B and handed ALBA its third consecutive loss, leaving the Germans looking over their shoulder from fourth place (4-4). Tywain McKee posted 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists to pace Le Mans during the game.

Both Reggio Emilia and MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg both need one more win from 5-3 and a tie for second in Group B, although here Emilia won 69-68 at home. After a 15-10 opening quarter Ludwigsburg fought back in Q2 to make 28-29 through halftime and maintained the one point lead after 30 minutes (48-49). One of the tightest games of the season was settled when Rimantas Kaukenas poured in on the buzzer to secure the win for Emilia.

Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas traveled to Enel Brindisi and left with a 71-88 win. The victory was enough to send the Spanish team (Eurocup Runner-up last season) to the Last 32 with a 6-2 record, while Enel Brindisi is eliminated with a 1-7 record at the bottom of the standings. A strong first half give the visitors a 22-46 lead, allowing Gran Canaria to put in a professional second half that stifled the game and led to victory.

Group C
Valencia Basket stays hot and the only undefeated team in the Eurocup this season after gunning down Ratiopharm Ulm 93-88 at home in Spain. Valencia has already progressed to the next stage, while Ulm is locked with Spirou with a 3-5 record in the race for fourth place. Guillem Vives paced the winners with 19 points.

Proximus Spirou Charleroi locked with Ratiopharm thanks to an 86-83 home win over Umana Reyer Venice, igniting the Belgian clubs’ chances. Venice is still in the mix too from third place and a 4-4 record, but here visitors let go of a 61-68 three quarter advantage as the hosts put together a 25-15 run in the fourth act.

Stevan Jelovac with 14 points and 9 boards led CAI Zaragoza to a 75-70 home success over Sluc Nancy, while also sending the Spanish club into the Last 32. French club Nancy was already eliminated and fell further behind in last place with a 1-7 record. The visitors did test Zaragoza though and through thirty minutes the scoreboard was locked 57-57 before the hosts edged it in the fourth.

Group D
Aris Thessaloniki got back to winning ways with a 76-70 home success over Unics Kazan, and because Aris has beat the Russian club twice this season the Greek team goes top. Both Thessaloniki and Unics Kazan have 5-2 records and both are firmly in the hunt to qualify. Unics led 32-34 at the midway point, but the hosts swung the momentum with a 24-21 run in the third act and wrapped up the contest with a winning fourth frame.

Banvit Bandirma swamped Steaua Bucharest 90-60 at home to move to 4-4 in sole possession of the fourth and final Last 32 berth in Group D. Romanian champs Bucharest sit bottom with 2-6 and are on mathematically able to qualify with two games to play. Banvit edged the first frame 20-17 before a 25-16 run in the second stanza made it 45-33 at halftime. The hosts cruised in the third and then used a 29-10 in the fourth to settle the game beyond doubt.

Trabzonspor Medical Park took possession of third place with the same 5-3 record as Unics and Aris for this week with a 79-82 road win over Buducnost VOLI Podgorica. Dwight Hardy with 21 points and a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds set the tone for Trabzonspor who extended their advantage throughout for a relatively easy win.

Group E
Avtodor Saratov eased into the Last 32 of the 2015/2016 Eurocup with a 109-92 home win over Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius. Avtodor claimed sole possession of second place with a 6-2 record, in contrast to Lietuvos Rytas, the Lithuanian club slipping to last place with a 2-6 showing. Avtodor broke 25 points in each quarter in an impressive offensive display, a show of power that was too much for a Vilnius outfit that was consistent at the bucket during the game.

Already qualified Zenit St. Petersburg destroyed Szolnoki Olaj 89-64 at home to enhance its position at the top of the Group E standings with a 7-1 record. Olaj still holds fourth place, but is locked in a battle with PAOK Thessaloniki and Besiktas with a 3-5 record. A 24-10 first frame gave Zenit early control and the Russians rarely looked back, with Ryan Toolson draining 28 points to top the winning effort.

PAOK Thessaloniki tied with Szolnoki Olaj in a race for fourth with a narrow 73-75 road win over Besiktas Istanbul, with the Turkish club also sitting on a 3-5 record. PAOK was down double digits during the long break (34-20), but the visitors hit back in the third with an 11-21 run. Still losing in the fourth, the Greek team continued to rally and snatched victory thanks to William Hatcher at the death. A fitting finale as the American plundered 32 points during the game.

Group F
Neptunas Klaipeda ended the Eurocup run of Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd with a crunching 74-97 win away from home. The win enhanced Klaipeda’s Last 32 chances as the Lithuanians moved to a tie for second on 5-3, while Krasny slipped out of the competition. The visitors led by double digits for large spells during the game, never really looking like being caught as Russian host Krasny fell way short of extending its continental campaign.

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