Round of 16 preview: Kataja Basket v Telekom Baskets
JOENSUU (FIBA Europe Cup) - Having registered a convincing victory against Kataja Basket last week, Telekom Baskets were the only FIBA Europe Cup team matched up with Basketball Champions League transfers in the Round of 16 to come out victorious from first-leg action.
It was a typically well-rounded team display that we have already got accustomed to from the Bonn side that pushed them through to a 91-72 win, giving the German club a relatively safe-looking 19-point cushion ahead of the return leg in Finland.
"First of all, I'm happy with the result and the fact that we're heading to Finland with a 19-point lead. At times, we played too much isolation on offense, so we know what to work on when we face Kataja Basket again," said the team's head coach Predrag Krunic following the win.
Seven players finished the game in double figures for Telekom Baskets, with Josh Mayo and Ryan Thompson leading the way with 15 points each. Jamarr Sanders, the team's new back-up combo guard, has taken some pressure of the starting unit and had 10 points and 3 assists in a successful FIBA Europe Cup debut.
While the trio of Rion Brown, Daniel Mullings and Jarekious Bradley did everything they could to keep Kataja competitive at the Telekom Dome, collecting 56 of the team's total 72 points, there simply weren't enough contributions from elsewhere.
Brown led the game in scoring with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Mullings collected 17 points and 7 boards, while Bradley nearly double-doubled with 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Kataja Basket dearly missed the leadership of the injured Teemu Ranniko. Playing without the 36-year-old playmaker, the Finns relied on isolation-heavy play, which resulted in just 10 assists on 24 turnovers.
"Despite the 24 turnovers, we gathered enough energy not to be blown out by 30 points. I'm disappointed, but we know that the 19-point differential is not impossible to overcome in our building," the Finnish team's coach Greg Gibson said.
In what will undoubtedly be welcomed as tremendous news by the club's fans, the play-caller revealed that Rannikko's situation has constantly been improving and there is a real chance that the player will be ready to suit up for the return leg against Telekom baskets next week.
"It is very possible that he will return as soon as next week," Kataja coach Gibson said of Rannikko, who was averaging 12.6 points and 6.9 assists in the Basketball Champions League. He also holds multiple FIBA Europe Cup records in the assist department from last season.
While the return of the flag-bearer of Finnish basketball will give the Joensuu side a big boost and gives measured hope, it will not change the fact of a 19-point first-leg deficit that will weigh heavily on Kataja's prospects in the competition this season.