After taking a few weeks off for the Holiday Season, the Eurochallenge is back, and with it comes Round 1 of the Last 16 phase. The movers and shakers from the group stages have progressed and opened the Last 16 in style, with Groups I through L offering plenty of midweek hoops action. Interestingly there is not a single club from the Final Four last season present at this stage, but there are plenty of outfits from all over the continent with their eyes firmly on the prize.
Energia Tg-Jiu Rovinari dominated Okapi Aalstar on the big second half to open their Eurochallenge Last 16 assault with a stylish 93-60 victory at home. That game winning second half saw the hosts plunder 55 points while holding Okapi to just 26, enough to make the final act a procession. Four players offered more than 15 points in the winning effort, including a game high contribution of 22 points from Porter Troupe. Just as influential for the Romanian hosts was Nemanja Milosevic with a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards.
Enel Basket Brindisi saw off BK Astana with the help of a huge first quarter. The Italian hosts won 74-65 and took a 27-16 lead into the first split. Astana hit back, but in the second half Brindisi looked in control and eased through the closing frames. Michael Eric and Delroy James provided the steel in the defensive paint as they took 15 rebounds between them in victory.
Travis Taylor doubled up with 18 points and 10 rebounds as he paced Magnofit Gussing Knights to an 82-65 win over visiting Le Mans. The French guests had no court action in the two weeks prior to this encounter and the hardwood rust showed. As for the Knights, they impressed at the offensive bucket, with Chadvar Kostov topping the scoring charts with a 22 point haul. The hosts controlled the game through thirty minutes and managed to hold off a brief Le Mans rally in the last quarter.
French club Nanterre will have designs on the Eurochallenge title this season and got their Last 16 off to a great start with a 100-67 destruction of USAK Sportif at home. It was close fought through a high scoring opening stanza, Nanterre edging the stint 24-23. From there the French club never looked back and put USAF to the sword in a dominant display.
Just the one game took place in Group K on Tuesday as the Fraport Skyliners took out Tartu Rock 62-71 away from home. The Germans claimed one of two road wins during Round 1 of the Eurochallenge Last 16 as they fought back from a 16-28 losing first frame to ease back into the game and eventually win it in the closing act.
Group L provided the closest Basketball of Round 1, with both games proving to be highly competitive. Trabzonspor Medical Park came through a high octane encounter against the Antwerp Giants to claim an 89-79 win. The Turkish hosts had carved out a 72-51 lead through half hour, but the Belgian Giants went big through the fourth with a 28 point haul that made it interesting down the stretch. In the end Trabzonspor had too much in the bank.
In the other game in Group L, Belfius Mons-Hainaut slipped at home to BC Enisey 71-74. The visitors kept one step ahead for much of the game and looked to be cruising more than once. However, the Belgian hosts kept fighting back, but ultimately could not peg back their guests enough.