EuroLeague Film Study: Ekpe Udoh’s Dominant Performance vs. Zalgiris

Breaking down how Udoh's play on both ends led to a Fenerbahce win

Photo via EuroLeague.net

Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support LosCrossovers.com and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.

Ekpe Udoh is one of the most dangerous 2-way players in EuroLeague, and he showed exactly why in Fenerbahce’s 76-67 road win over Zalgiris Kaunas.

With Jan Vesely out, Udoh played 38 minutes of mostly great basketball.

He dominated defensively, blocking shots, altering others and intimidating players into U-turning out of the paint. Offensively, he scored efficiently and found open shooters to punish Zalgiris’ aggressive defense.

He finished the game with one of the most complete stat-lines in EuroLeague this season: 16 points (8/11 FGs), 7 rebounds, a career-high 5 assists, 4 blocks, 1 steal and 1 turnover. Let’s take a closer look at Udoh’s dominant performance.

Passing 

Udoh is mostly known as a shot-blocker and dunker, but his passing ability was perhaps his most important trait in this game.

Zalgiris brought heavy pressure, trapping guards on the perimeter and sending double teams into the post. The goal was to create chaos and take Fenerbahce out of their rhythm.

However, Udoh handled the pressure beautifully. He caught the ball in traffic, he was patient when passing out of the post and he picked Zalgiris apart with his passing on short rolls.

This is my favorite pass of that mix (besides the ridiculous over-the-shoulder pass to Kalinic). As Udoh catches the ball on the roll, you can see his eyes finding Datome in the corner. Udoh then looks at the rim and takes a strong dribble into the paint, forcing Pangos to stay in help position rather than recovering to the corner. Udoh, having spotted Datome before he put the ball on the floor, makes a crisp pass for the wide-open 3.

Udoh’s only turnover of the game was an errant pass. Maybe he should’ve gone up quickly with the shot instead of trying a tough bounce pass, but I liked the idea, even though he couldn’t execute it this time.

Efficient Scoring

Udoh scored in a variety of ways vs. Zalgiris.

Fenerbahce probably doesn’t want to rely on Udoh post-up fadeaways, but he hit one in the 1st half over Antanas Kavaliauskas.

He also finished a couple uncontested dunks. Pero Antic created an easy two for him in the 2nd quarter, and Nikola Kalinic fed him on a buzzer-beating fastbreak.

In the 2nd half, he made a nice hook shot over Paulius Jankunas, then feasted on slip screens and pick-and-roll lobs the rest of the game.

Defense

Udoh leads the league in blocks again this season, with 13 more than 2nd-place Alex Tyus. He blocked 4 shots against Zalgiris, his fourth game this season with at least 4 blocks.

He denied driving guards at the rim, blocked a Kavaliauskas fadeaway and tipped a Kevin Pangos pull-up 3. Udoh is able to do this because of his mobility, timing and length (7’4.5″ wingspan per draftexpress.com).

He also challenged other shots, intimidated players into bad shots and passes and tormented guards on switches.

Pangos, a 44% 3-point shooter this season, didn’t even hit the rim when he saw Udoh closing out. Udoh slid his feet and forced speedy Lukas Lekavicius into a crucial late turnover. And earlier in the game he switched onto Leo Westermann and snatched his pass out of the air.

Udoh is a top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and he knows it. In his post-game interview, EuroLeague commentator George Zidek said Udoh single-handedly shut-down Zalgiris.

Udoh’s response was as good as his performance: “That’s what I do. That’s why Obradovic got me. That’s what I do. You know, my teammates lean on me, so I gotta be there. I gotta be better on pick-and-roll coverages, but I’m gonna keep on getting better, so we’ll see what happens.”

Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support LosCrossovers.com and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.

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1 Comment on EuroLeague Film Study: Ekpe Udoh’s Dominant Performance vs. Zalgiris

  1. You should be an NBA scout! Sounds so professional and knowledgeable

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