19 September, 2017
06 May, 2018
Pre-Event Press Conference
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Battle of the acronyms: AEK and UCAM at OAKA in search of BCL glory

ATHENS (Basketball Champions League) - Make sure you tune in as Athlitiki Enosis Konstantinoupoloes take on Universidad Catolica de Murcia at the Olympic Athletic Center of Athens.

Once AEK and UCAM take the floor of the OAKA, we will for sure be in for something special. AEK will be roared on by their thunderous fans, but Murcia are known to survive in such conditions, cruising to the Final Four despite being faced with two of the toughest home courts in the Play-Offs. First they defeated the defending champs Iberostar Tenerife on the island, then they went to Turkey and silenced the Pinar Karsiyaka faithful.

Rebounding could be the key for AEK. They are ranked in the bottom half when it comes to defensive rebounding, which will be even more important as UCAM Murcia grab an unreal percentage of offensive rebounds per game - at 32.4 percent of all rebounds available under their rival's rim, almost one out of three missed shots will end up back in the hands of the Spaniards.

Whilst AEK have to stop UCAM from grabbing the boards, Murcia will have to make sure that none of Greek individuals go off. Easier said than done, as Kevin Punter, Manny Harris, Dusan Sakota, Mike Green are all capable of winning a game all by themselves.

AEK have been in this position before, celebrating the 50th anniversary of their FIBA European Cup Winners' Cup title. UCAM do not have AEK's impressive history behind them, but will for sure enjoy the role of the underdog. That worked out perfectly for them in both the Round of 16 and the Quarter-Finals.

They said: "We didn't start the season so well, and the expectations in Greece are always high. When I took over, we almost had zero chances of making the Play-Offs. It seemed like it was a drama every time we played after that, and we made a habit out of hitting big shots in clutch moments. But we don't mind, maybe it's sweeter to go through this way." - Dragan Sakota, AEK head coach

"We played our best basketball away from home, and won the most important games of the season on the road. It has been a long road, but it shows that teams need time to create chemistry. This process took us some three or four months, which then made us play at our best level in the Play-Offs. Final Four will be a great experience for all of us, aside from Brad Oleson, the rest of the team really does not have experience of something like this." - Ibon Navarro, UCAM Murcia head coach

"We can't wait to play against the hosts, in front of some angry fans who will for sure bring a lot of energy to the stadium. We have been an underdog all season long, and it's a good role for us. We'll keep saying we're the underdogs, maybe that puts a bit of pressure on the home team then." - Vitor Benite, UCAM Murcia team captain

"Our whole season was portrayed by those last couple of minutes of the Regular Season. Not just (because of my shot), but also because there were three other games that needed to go our way, and they all did. I remember running to the locker-room, turning on the live-score of the other games to see if we made it through. We did, I said to my guys: 'Guys, we should take this as a message. If we did this, and it happened the way it happened, we got to use this, we got to re-start, everybody starting from their own self, and just keep going.' Just a week later we ended up winning the Greek Cup against (Olympiacos) one of the best teams in Europe. That gave us the confidence to keep going. We were at our best when our backs were up against the wall, that should give us the motivation for the (Semi-Finals)." - Dusan Sakota, AEK team captain

Key matchup: Ovie Soko up against Dusan Sakota. AEK's talisman coming off the bench means instant scoring, he's been in double digits in 15 of his 17 Basketball Champions League appearances this season. The threat that he poses from beyond the arc will stretch UCAM's defense, allowing Harris and Punter to have more space for their dribble drives to the basket. Ovie Soko will try and prevent it from happening, and grab a lot of rebounds in the process. At 7.3 rebounds per game, he is the best rebounder of all the Final Four players.

Key numbers: AEK are one of the highest scoring teams in this competition, averaging 82.8 points per game, compared to Murcia's 78.1 PPG, which puts them in 18th spot. But there are two sides to every stat, and UCAM can always point to the 10.8 offensive rebounds per game that they get. They may want to avoid a fast paced game, as only AS Monaco play faster basketball than AEK this season.

When and Where: Friday, May 4, 20:30 CET (21:30 local), OAKA Olympic Indoor Hall, Athens.