17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
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Burning questions: Murcia's two-pointers or Ludwigsburg's three-pointers?

MIES (Switzerland) - The Basketball Champions League Season 8 Quarter-Finals tip-off on Wednesday. UCAM Murcia and MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg were drawn together, giving us a rematch of a 2018 Final Four duel.

Back then, in Athens, Greece, Murcia defeated an injury-plagued Ludwigsburg 85-74 in the battle for third spot in Season 2 of the BCL. It remains the only time Murcia made the Final Four, while Ludwigsburg had another good run in 2022, finishing third in Bilbao, Spain.

This time around, the duo will fight in a best-of-three series. UCAM Murcia own homecourt advantage, meaning they are playing Game 1 and a potential Game 3 at home.

How did they get here?

Murcia have been one of the hottest teams this BCL season, storming through to the Quarter-Finals on a 9-3 record.

They won their Regular Season group courtesy of earning the tiebreaker over Bertram Derthona Tortona at 5-1, then edged out Promitheas Patras, Hapoel Holon and AEK BETSSON BC in the Round of 16 to make it back to the Quarter-Finals for the second straight year, and third time overall.

Ludwigsburg meanwhile had to play three games more than Murcia, collecting an 8-7 record so far in Season 8. They finished second in their Regular Season group, trailing only AEK BETSSON BC, then eliminated Darussafaka Lassa in a Play-In series that went to Game 3, before fighting with compatriots Telekom Baskets Bonn for top spot in their Round of 16 group.

The defending champions won that battle, sending Ludwigsburg to the unseeded pot of the draw on their fourth trip to the Quarter-Finals. Aside from reaching the Final Four on the wo aforementioned occasions, the Giants also played this phase of the competition back in Season 1, where eventual finalists Banvit eliminated them on a Jordan Theodore buzzer-beater.

What are their biggest strengths?

Murcia are the kind of team that likes to get inside the three-point line. Among the 32 teams that started Season 8, only AEK scored more two-pointers than Murcia, and even that was by just 0.5 point.

Murcia score 22.1 two-pointers per game, the highest mark among all Quarter-Finalists, and scoring inside the arc will remain their game plan against Ludwigsburg.

That's because Ludwigsburg allow just 5.9 three-pointers per game, holding their opponents to a conversion rate from three-point range of just 28.5 percent. On the other end of the floor, Ludwigsburg fire at will from beyond the arc, as they attempt a whopping 30.6 three-pointers per game, three more than any other elite eight club.

Ludwigsburg hit 10.2 of those three-point shots on average, tied with Tenerife in second place and behind Promitheas Patras  by a mere 0.1.

The German side will certainly need to score 10+ three-pointers if they want to steal a game on the road in this matchup. It sounds like Mission Impossible right now, as Murcia have lost just one of their last 23 BCL home games.

Who's feeling it?

Dustin Sleeva is on a roll, getting 12 or more points in each his last three BCL appearances. He had 12 or more just once across his first nine BCL games, timing his scoring rise to perfection, just when Murcia head coach Sito Alonso needed it the most.

Ludwigsburg head coach Josh King will look to feed Silas Melson, who 's on a four-game stretch of double-digit scoring, his longest such run in this competition.

Melson has clearly found his form after New Year's Day as he's been averaging 13.9 points per game in 2024, up from 5 points per game in the 2023 part of the season.

Have they met before?

Yes, they have. Murcia won the Final Four rendezvous in Athens six years ago, but Ludwigsburg responded with a dramatic 1-point win six months later, in the Regular Season.

Safe to say Murcia remembered that one, because the Spaniards won the reverse fixture 73-47 in January 2019.

In short, their Wednesday clash will be their fourth matchup in the BCL, with Murcia currently leading 2-1.

When and where?

The first game tips off on Wednesday, at 18:30 CET in the Palacio de los Deportes in Murcia, Spain.

Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9 in the MHP Arena in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Tip-off time 20:00 CET.

The potential Game 3, if necessary,  will be played in Murcia on April 16, at 20:30 CET.