Play-Off Qualifiers preview: Pinar Karsiyaka v Fraport Skyliners
IZMIR (Basketball Champions League) - Pinar Karsiyaka coach Nenad Markovic and his players have probably had some restless nights since a rampaging Mike Morrison of Fraport Skyliners put their progression in the Basketball Champions League in danger.
No one could have predicted that the 27-year-old American center, a member of the German club's FIBA Europe Cup triumph last year, would have erupted for a season-high 35 points in his team's 90-80 triumph in the first leg of the Play-Off Qualifier.
It was one of the top statistical performances of any player in the inaugural season of the competition.
His previous high in the Basketball Champions League had been 13 points in a Gameday 2 clash with Banvit.
Markovic could hardly believe how Skyliners tore his team apart on the interior.
"We will need to be very focused, very concentrated to make some adjustments to try to pass to the next round," he said.
Is Morrison now the man to stop for Pinar Karsiyaka to have a chance of advancing? On the evidence of the first game, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Morrison dunked his way to a season-high 35 points against Karsiyaka
"Mike was a beast," Fraport coach Gordon Herbert said. "I thought he did a great job going front rim. He's got real good hands, caught a lot of balls and was able to finish. I thought obviously he had an extremely good game."
Morrison has been a work in progress with the Skyliners. Providing energy and intensity has never been a problem but to be a go-to man, he's got to be able to make his free-throws.
Last season in the FIBA Europe Cup, Morrison shot an abysmal 41.7 percent (40 of 96) at the charity stripe whereas this season, he's hit 60 percent (27 of 45). Against Karisyaka, he was 5 of 7 (71.4 percent). Morrison has also been a lot more effective when getting the ball in the low post.
"He does a lot of extra work," Herbert said. "We've been really working on his right hand. You can see by the foul shots he's done a lot of work, a lot more confidence. I think the best part of Mike is he's just a great teammate."
"This is an 80-minute game and that's the first 40 minutes. We'll look forward to working on some things, making some adjustments and playing the next game at home." - Pinar Karsiyaka center Josh Owens
Karsiyaka will want to contain Morrison, but not at the expense of letting another Skyliner hurt them. They know that Fraport has other players to cause them concern with Kwame Vaughn, A.J. English, Quantez Robertson, Shawn Huff, Shavon Shields all capable of having big outings.
The Turkish club will have the home-court advantage when the teams meet on Tuesday, 21 February. They should have smoke coming out of their ears and nostrils when they run onto the hardwood for the second game.
Karsiyaka center Josh Owens, who had a season-high 15 points and 7 rebounds for in the opener, knows there is plenty of time to turn this tie around because it's the winner of the aggregate score that advances to the Round of 16 to face Besiktas Sompo Japan.
"This is an 80-minute game and that's the first 40 minutes," Owens said. "We'll look forward to working on some things, making some adjustments and playing the next game at home."