EB Pau-Orthez hosts Fenerbahce Ulker on Thursday in France in a Group C showdown that could have plenty of impact on the race for Top 16 spots. If Fenerbahcebahce (2-6) wins, it would close within one victory of Pau for fifth place - the last automatic Top 16 qualifying spot - in the group. Moreover, a win by 3 points or more would give Fenerbahce a potential head-to-head tie-break advantage if the teams were to finish the regular season with the same record. Meanwhile, a victory for Pau (4-4) would boost the French team's chances for the Top 16. Pau fell last week at Winterthur Barcelona 93-75 while Fenerbahce lost at home to Aris 80-86. The big news from that game for Fenerbahce was the return to action of point guard Will Solomon, who had 16 points and 3 assists in 24 minutes, whikile Ibrahim Kutluay poured in a season-high 22 points. When they met earlier in the season, Pau edged Fenerbahce 66-68 in Istanbul behind 22 points from Michael Wright. In one of this game's marquee matchups, Wright will go head-to-head at times with the Euroleague's all-time Euroleague rebounding leader, Mirsad Turkcan. Wright (17.3 ppg., 4,5 rpg.) ranks second in the Euroleague in scoring this season while shooting an efficient 59.8% on two-pointers. His effective low-post game, enhanced by the play of point guard Aaron Miles (9.6 ppg., 4.1 apg.), frees up room for Pau's other scorers, forwards Britton Johnsen (13.5 ppg., 65.1% 2FG, 5 rpg.) and Michael Bauer (9.8 ppg.) and guard Clint Harrison (9.4 ppg.). Wright may get a few extra minutes this week as center Ian Mahinmi is unavailable with a hip problem. Turkcan (8.8 ppg., 10.5 rpg.) leads the league in rebounding again this season, but has made just 4-of-12 (33.3%) two-pointers and 2-of-12 (16.7%) three-pointers in his last four games. Center Kaspars Kambala (14.8 ppg., 4.3 rpg.) and sharpshooter Kutluay (14.3 ppg.) team with Solomon (12.4 ppg., 4 apg., 2 spg.) to give Fenerbahce a dangerous scoring trio, while Damir Mrsic (11.4 ppg., 41.2% 3FG) has been red-hot from downtown lately. Recent signing Eddie Badsen (6.3 ppg., 3 apg., 2.3 spg.) has also been a big boost to the team's perimeter game, especially on defense. An effective and healthy Solomon strengthens the Fenerbahcebahce rotation and creates pressure on Miles at both ends of the floor, making his performance a key to Fenerbahce's chances on the road.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006