Words: David Barr (@daveabarr)
Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem travels to Athens, Greece on Wednesday to take on AEK in Round 9 of Basketball Champions League play. These two clubs faced each other in Round 2 back in October which saw Hapoel Jerusalem come out on top 85-78 at Jerusalem Arena. Both starting fives scored 65 each. The difference for the Lions in that first meeting as well as throughout Champions League games has been bench scoring. Jerusalem gets on the average 35-points per contest from the bench including six more than AEK in October.
To say that these two clubs are close to identical in every statistical way would be an understatement. In the all-time series (since 1991) AEK leads the series 6-5. To this point in Champions League play, Jerusalem has shot 49-percent from the field compared to AEK at 46-percent. On the boards the visitors on Wednesday average one more rebound (36-35). When you look at steals, turnovers and blocks there is a difference of one or two between the two top teams in Group B of Champions League play.
Oded Katash’s squad sits second domestically in the Israel Winner League at 7-1 and have ran off four dominant wins in a row after falling to table leader Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv also back in October. In Champions League play, Jerusalem sits atop the standings along with AEK at 6-2 (lost back to back contests in November). Not surprisingly they both have a point differential of 60, However, the Reds hold an advantage and are in first place due to their head to head record.
Shooting guard James Feldeine leads Jerusalem in scoring both in Champions League (17ppg) and domestically at 16 points per game. Fellow guard J’Covan Brown is putting a touch more than 15-points per contest in the books in both leagues. A real difference maker for Jerusalem as been forward TashawnThomas who has played in two more Champions League games than Winner League and where he is averaging three more points per outing (13ppg versus 10.3ppg). Trent Lockett who returned to the United States due to a personal matter will be unavailable for Katash’s crew.
European veteran guard Keith Langford is only one of two AEK players averaging in double figures in Champions League play at 20.5 ppg while shooting a red hot 47-percent from three-point land. Cuban forward Howard Sant Roos is the other at 13.3 ppg and is adding almost seven rebounds a contest, while new recruit Mario Chalmers of Miami Heat fame round out a triple threat from the backcourt. The Greek side sits at 7-4 and in in fourth place back home in the EKO Basket League trailing first place Panathinaikos at 10-1.
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