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Coach Messina about the Valencia game: “There’s a strong desire to overcome the many obstacles that we faced”


After the big win in Madrid, the sixth EuroLeague road win of the season, Olimpia is entering a stretch of its schedule full of battles that will have a significant weight in the playoff race. The first is Tuesday 12 January, at the Mediolanum Forum against Valencia. The two teams have the same number of wins, 10, but Olimpia have played one game less. Valencia, however, won the first leg with a five-point margin. It is clearly a game of the utmost importance. It is interesting that the third and fourth best teams in terms of points scored in the competition, 81.6 Milan, 81.3 Valencia, are facing each other. Valencia is also the best team in two-point shooting with a very high 59.5 percent, while Olimpia is second in three-point shooting converting 40.8 percent of the attempts. Going deeper, Valencia is first for assists, but Olimpia is still the best team at protecting the ball (it has the fewest turnovers in the league) and the second-best at forcing turnovers.

THE EVE – Milan enters into this game after a weird week-end in which it should have played in Cremona. Instead, the huge snowstorm that hit Madrid kept the team for two extra days in the Spain capital and forced the group to hop on a train to Valencia on Sunday night, the only way to make sure that returning in Milan by Monday night was still possible. Olimpia practiced only once since the Madrid win, on Monday morning in Valencia. It was obviously a weird approach.

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We face a team well organized by Coach Ponsarnau, with a lot of depth. Offensively, they are talented and very versatile. It’s a difficult game, because numbers are saying that home court advantage doesn’t exist right now and we are coming off some complicated days like everybody knows. Our goal is to win the game and possibly turn the point-differential around. But our morale is high, there’s among the players a lot of will to overcome obstacles and we’ll do whatever it takes to play a good game.”

RICCARDO MORASCHINI – “Valencia is a very talented team, with a lot of shooters, including the big men. For us, the defensive aspect of the game will be crucial and, in spite of the difficult days that we experienced approaching it, we’ll need to play with great attention and focus, like we did in Madrid.”

REFEREES – Matej Boltauzer (Slovenia), Gytis Vylius (Lithuania), Arturas Sukys (Lithuania).

NOTESKevin Punter has had at least one steal in 12 of his last 13 EuroLeague appearances. He has also scored at least one three in each of the last 24 EuroLeague games he’s played and has scored in double figures in 18 of his last 20. Malcolm Delaney has scored at least one three in 12 consecutive games. Riccardo Moraschini‘s 10 rebounds, all defensive, in Madrid are a career best for him. Until that point, he had never grabbed more than six rebounds in a single game. Gigi Datome has an open streak of 24 free throws made in a row. The game against Valencia will be Kaleb Tarczewski‘s number 100 in the EuroLeague, all with Olimpia. No one had ever reached this milestone before.

THE STREAK-BUSTERS – This European season at Olimpia is breaking many negative streaks. The win in Madrid was the second in history, but the first (11 November 2003) took place in the Uleb Cup (now Eurocup). The record in the top European competition in Madrid was 0-16 and included the 1967 European Cup final. This season, Olimpia had already broken a losing streak in Tel Aviv that started in 1987, 33 years ago, had defeated Real Madrid in the first leg so breaking a 14-game losing streak. In Istanbul against Efes Olimpia had closed a streak of 15 consecutive road losses with the Turkish team.

VALENCIA – The franchise player in Valencia is Bojan Dubljevic, a Montenegrin who is in his tenth season with the same team, but has missed the last few games. The guards are Sam Van Rossom, the Belgian bomber who was decisive in the first leg with 21 points (he’s averaging 6.2 points and 3.4 assists per game), the combo-guard from Iceland Martin Hermannsson, the only one to never start for Coach Jaume Ponsarnau, but he is a 43.3 percent shooter on threes, while playing almost 17 minutes per game, the Slovenian shooter Klemen Prepelic (11.2 points and 3.1 assists on average), the experienced Guillem Vives (40.5 percent from three), and another veteran as Joan Sastre. The small forward is Nikola Kalinic, the Serbian international who comes from Fenerbahce, and is averaging 9.4 points on 62.5 percent shooting from two. At the power forward position there is Derrick Williams (9.3 points on 61.3 percent from two), an extraordinary athlete. The big men are Luis Labeyrie, who is shooting 70.3 percent from two and 45.2 percent from three, and Mike Tobey, a center who also knows how to shoot from the outside (42.3 percent) and produces 9.1 points with 4.4 rebounds per game. Another veteran, Fernando San Emeterio, is also part of a deep rotation.

THE VALENCIA CONNECTION – Sam Van Rossom played in Italy in Pesaro, but on loan from Olimpia for which he never played. Gigi Datome played at Fenerbahce with Nikola Kalinic and, limited to the last season, also with Derrick Williams.