FIBA Intercontinental Cup Semifinals preview

2020-02-07T11:18:46+00:00 2020-02-07T11:19:38+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

07/Feb/20 11:18

Get ready for the 2020 FIBA Intercontinental Cup.

By Eurohoops Team/

The semifinals of the 2020 FIBA Intercontinental Cup are set to take place on Friday evening in Spain. Host Iberostar Tenerife will collide with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Segafredo Virtus Bologna with San Lorenzo de Almagro. On Sunday, the winning sides will compete for first place after the losing teams battle for third.

Virtus, San Lorenzo hope trophy awaits at the end of long road

Segafredo Virtus Bologna and San Lorenzo de Almagro have travelled a long way – metaphorically in the case of the former, literally as far as the latter is concerned – to step out in the first Semi-Final of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup on Friday.

Virtus were in action on Wednesday night and consequently were the last of the four contenders to arrive on Tenerife. Lifting the 2018-19 Basketball Champions League trophy last May however has injected Virtus with a powerful desire to add more titles and revive the glory days of Italy’s ‘Basket City’.

“For us the FIBA Intercontinental Cup is a big opportunity because our club has never won this trophy in its history,” said Virtus captain Filippo Baldi Rossi.

“We have seen enough of these guys [San Lorenzo] to know that they are tough. We are a little bit tired, but we are focused on our job, we are only thinking about the first game and we will be ready for it.”

The Italian side’s head coach, Sasha Djordjevic, a man who has won almost everything in his career as a player and a coach, seconded his captain’s views.

“It’s a great honor for me to be here and it’s a great honor to represent Virtus Bologna in this tournament,” said Djordjevic.

“We will try to honor it and try to give our best. We know it’s a tough one, it’s going to be tough to compete, but I know my guys will be ready to compete.”

The 2019 DIRECTV Liga de las Americas champions on the other hand traveled to the Spanish island all the way from Buenos Aires.

“We come from very far and we had a long trip, but my players are all very motivated for this tournament,” said San Lorenzo head coach Nestor Garcia.

“We are very happy to be here, competing with these big teams and coaches on this big stage. We know that we play against Virtus, a team with great players and a great coach.

“I admire Sasha very much and I am not saying this because he is my friend, but because I truly believe he is one of the best coaches in the world.”

Garcia took charge of San Lorenzo last month, so he was not at the helm in February 2019 when the Argentinian team fell in the Semi-Finals of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup in Brazil.

The Buenos Aires side are the only among the four participants in Tenerife to be making back-to-back appearances in the competition. Those who went through the 2019 experience hope that redemption awaits at the end of the long road that brought them to the 2020 edition.

“It’s my second year in the FIBA Intercontinental Cup with San Lorenzo and my expectation is to win, just as every other team here,” said the Argentinian champions shooting guard Dar Tucker.

“We work hard and we practice hard to come out and win. Hopefully we can pull it off, and I know we are up against great competition, but my hope is that we can win and take the cup.

“I think we are well prepared to face a European team, of course we know it’s going to be tough, we have watched film and know that Bologna’s pace of game is just amazing and they have outstanding players.

“But we’re up for the challenge.”

Tenerife, Vipers delve into uncharted territory

A brief glance at FIBA Intercontinental Cup’s list of historical champions will tell you that the hosts of the 2020 edition of the competition, Iberostar Tenerife, are the only among the four participants to have -quite literally- been here and done this before.

In the autumn of 2017, the newly-crowned back then Basketball Champions League champions defeated Venezuela’s Guaros de Lara at home in Tenerife to lift their maiden FIBA Intercontinental Cup.

Going into the second Semi-Final of the 2020 edition though, on Friday, the Spanish club feel they have to deal with the unfamiliar and prove themselves really fast learners, just like their rivals, reigning NBA G League champions Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

For Tenerife, it starts with head coach Txus Vidorreta, who led the Spanish team to the BCL title in 2017 but parted ways with the club before the FIBA Intercontinental Cup final, and he returned at the helm later that season.

“The competition has a different format and I was not here for the title in 2017, I had the chance to win the BCL title and that is why the club had the chance to play host to the competition that year,” Vidorreta said.

“For us, it’s an honor to receive these clubs here and to host this competition. We have a great desire to win our second FIBA Intercontinental Cup, but we know it’s going to be very difficult.”

Another reason why Tenerife will have a strange feeling in Friday’s Semi-Final, despite playing at home, is that they have never faced a team with a style of play similar to that of the perimeter-oriented Vipers.

“We don’t know the Vipers as well as we know the other two teams [Virtus Bologna and San Lorenzo] but we’ve watched enough film on them to know that they are very athletic, very physical and they play up-tempo basketball,” said Tenerife star Marcelinho Huertas.

“But we are hosting the event and our expectations can only be high, we can only hope to reach the Sunday final and win it.

“I think the expectations are high for every team that is here and everyone starts with an equal chance to win the trophy, because it’s not a play-off series, it’s two single knock-out games.

“We take it very seriously and we respect all teams because all teams here want to achieve something here and we all deserve to be here.”

The Vipers have also hit the video sessions hard as they try to familiarize themselves with their Spanish hosts. Most of the players on the Texas team have never competed against a non-US team before and they also have to acclimatize themselves to FIBA regulations.

“We’ve been watching film on Tenerife and we know they are as talented as they can be,” said Vipers head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah.

“It will be a small adjustment for our guys, because international rules are different than the rules we’re used to in the G League or in the NBA, so both myself and the players will need to adapt.

“But it will be fun. It will be a great atmosphere for sure and I am looking forward to it. We’re here to compete.”

If coach Abdelfattah needs one of his players to spread the message that he expects his Vipers to go out and..bite on Friday and that lack of familiarity with the opponent and the rules isn’t an excuse, he needs to look no further than his star point guard Isaiah Taylor.

“The different rules is just something we will have to get used to, the shorter three-point line, or knocking the ball of the rim, which to us is goal-tending,” Taylor said.

“We just want to compete, and as everybody else here, we want to win the cup.

“Being in the NBA in the past three years [Taylor played for the Houston Rockets and for the Atlanta Hawks], I have a lot of friends or former team-mates that have played in Europe and they have told me about how hard teams in Europe play, how physical they are.

“I will look to be one of the leaders on the team and prepare my team-mates for this tough fight.”

Source: FIBA (1) (2)