Rampant Beşiktaş set for Armia battle

Rampant Beşiktaş set for Armia battle

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Rampant Beşiktaş set for Armia battle

Deron Williams, arguably the top player in the competition, started with a superb performance against Leiden. AA photo

Beşiktaş Milangaz will aim to maintain its stunning run when it welcomes Georgia’s Armia in the EuroChallenge tonight, leading three Turkish teams in the competition.

Beşiktaş will host its Georgian opponent in the Group A, while Olin Edirne will visit Okapi Aalstar in the Group F and Türk Telekom will play at Telekom Baskets in the Group G.

The Beşiktaş Milangaz vs. Armia match will feature arguably the biggest name in the competition in Deron Williams, the Team USA Olympic champion from Beijing Games. The superstar guard, who chose to play in Turkey during the NBA lockout, led Beşiktaş to an 86-58 triumph at ZZ Leiden in the opener last week.

The 27-year-old was nowhere near his best in the club’s Eurocup Qualifying Round tie defeat to Dexia Mons-Hainaut, but found his form in the next weeks and led the team to a perfect five-match winning start to the Beko Basketball League.

Beşiktaş won its fifth consecutive game in Turkey’s TBL, beating Mersin 98-82, and shares the lead in the standings with Anadolu Efes.

Williams poured in 20 points and handed out seven assists in the team’s opening day victory.

If the NBA lockout is giving Beşiktaş fans an opportunity to watch the New Jersey Nets star shine, the labor dispute is also giving Armia a chance to see Sundiata Gaines.

The 25-year-old guard, who knows Williams well since they were Utah Jazz teammates, had 24 points on his EuroChallenge debut in last week’s 82-76 win over BG Göttingen.

Gaines was five-of-seven from long range.

Beşiktaş coach Ergin Ataman raised eyebrows last week when electing to bring Williams off the bench in the second quarter instead of starting him. The strategy proved to be the right one.

When Williams entered the game, the Turkish outfit stormed to victory.

He had 14 of his points in the second quarter and Beşiktaş outscored their Dutch opponents 19-4 at the end of the frame to take command.

Beşiktaş also boasts Turkish international team center Semih Erden, Serbia’s Zoran Erceg and shooting guard Marcelus Kemp, while Armia boasts the explosive Jeremy Richardson, big men William Thomas and Joakim Kjellbom and Puerto Rico international Guillermo Diaz.

Kjellbom and Thomas combined to grab 28 of their team’s 51 rebounds in the victory over Göttingen.

Meanwhile, ULEB Eurocup starts tonight with 16 matches to be played in eight groups. Banvit, Turkey’s only team in the competition, will take on Germany’s Fraport Skyliners in a game that will be played in the Bandırma district of Balıkesir.

The game starts at 6 p.m. Turkish time.