The Top 16 is beckoning for a slew of clubs as the flood gates opened in the Euroleague at the start of Round 7 of the Regular Season. Unicaja Malaga, Olympiacos Piraeus, Fenerbahce Istanbul, and Barcelona all grabbed wins that sent them through to the next phase of the competition. There were three other games that took place on Thursday as other clubs jostled for position in the chasing pack.
Fenerbahce Istanbul took apart Strasbourg 81-54 at home to book its place in the Top 16, the Turkish club topping Group A at the moment with a 6-1. Strasbourg slips to 3-4 but is tied for a share of third place. A 22-14 run in the opening stanza gave Fener and early lead and in the third a 21-13 surge killed the game in favour of the hosts. Jan Vesely struck 20 points in the win as Fenerbahce collected its fifth consecutive victory in the Euroleague this season.
FC Bayern Munich locked with Nanterre on 3-4 in third place with a moral boosting 70-81 road win over Khimki Moscow Region, who hold onto second with a 4-3 record. Khimki is dangerous of course, but Bayern done a double on the Russians this season and looked in control for large spells in this game, leading 30-42 through halftime. In the second half the Germans recovered from a blip in the third act to find another gear in the fourth period to stroll to victory. John Bryant led Bayern with 17 points, while James Augustine topped Khimki with 14 points.
Olympiacos’ steady hoops this season paid off as the Greek club swept into the Top 16 of the Euroleague with a 59-52 home win over Laboral Kutxa. The Piraeus club has been unspectacular but efficient, and so it proved again here. The hosts used a 36-22 halftime lead to control the hardwood in the second half, building the win on a strong defensive showing. Olympiacos is now clear at the top of Group B with a 6-1 record, while Laboral Kutxa Vitoria is tied for second place with Cedevita Zagreb on 4-3.
Speaking of Cedevita, the Croatian champions got back to winning ways after defeat last week with a 69-78 road win over CSP Limoges in France. It consolidated Zagreb’s position in the group to second place, while Limoges slipped out of the qualification spaces in fifth (2-5). Cedevita plundered 28 points in the second quarter to lead 39-48 through the long break, and in the second half consistency was the name of the game as the guests stayed professional. Luka Babic drained 19 points in the Zagreb victory.
EA7 Emporio Armani Milan gave itself a fighting chance to qualify with an 88-84 win at home over Turkish giant Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Milan is still bottom with a 2-5 record alongside Limoges, but the Italians are now just one win behind Anadolu Efes (3-4) in fourth place. Efes was strong throughout, but Milan put together its most consistent display of the season and poured in more than 20 points in every quarter. Jamel McLean was instrumental in that consistency as he helped himself to 26 points in victory, while Krunoslav Simon added 17 points.
FC Barcelona Lassa surged into the Top 16 with a cruising away victory at the expense of Stelmet Zielona Gora, the Polish champs slipping 64-93 loss. After shaky start in Round 1, Barcelona has won six on the bounce and eases into the next round at the top of Group C with a 6-1 record. Stelmet is rooted to the bottom of the standings with a 1-6 record and is running out of games to turn it around. Barca led from start to finish and put the home team to the sword in a second half that saw the Spanish guests hit 49 points on the way to an easy win.
Unicaja Malaga lost its unbeaten record last week with a poor display, but the Spanish team hit back with an 82-68 win over ailing Maccabi Tel Aviv at home. The victory meant the Spanish team moved through to the Top 16 with a 6-1 record, while Tel Aviv slipped to 1-6. The Israeli Euroleague giant is having a season to forget and a loss next week will end the campaign for Tel Aviv, it would be the first time this century that the club has missed out on the Top 16. Richard Hendrix had a double-double of 10 points and 11 boards in victory.