The Riders face the Sheffield Sharks in the quarter-final of the BBL Trophy. A win in this knockout competition would see them progress to the final four as they look to win the competition for the first time since 2018.
The Riders enter the game on a high, after a significant 99-73 win against the Surrey Scorchers. They shot 42% from three and 50% from the field in an efficient display, where five Riders scored double digits.
Marc Loving and Zach Jackson combined for 41 points, led by 21 from Loving. The 6’9” forward finished with eight rebounds, shooting 50% from the field.
READ MORE: Report: Riders see off Scrochers
Loving leads the Riders scoring in all competitions this season with 16.1 points per game, a career-high tally. He went off for 32 in the first round of the Trophy, an overtime win against the Manchester Giants.
It was a hard-fought victory that came down to the wire, but the Riders emerged 114-107 after a dominant extra period.
READ MORE: Report: Riders beat Giants in overtime thriller!
The Riders are one of the BBL’s premier offences, scoring the second-most points per game, and shooting at the most efficient rate from the field and three. They will have their work cut out in this one, however, against of the league’s elite defences.
Sharks’ slow start
While Sheffield ranks second in opponent’s points per game, it has yet to translate to the win column. A 0-4 start to the season left them off the pace, and they currently sit in the final playoff place with an 8-15 record.
They have not found an offensive rhythm, scoring a league-worst 73 points per game and shooting just 43% from the field.
American point guard Saeed Nelson has led the charge to get points on the board for Sheffield, putting up 13.5 points per game. He is one of four Sharks scoring double-digit points this season and applies pressure on the other end, snatching 1.8 steals per game.
This game sees a break from league action, however, as both teams turn their attention to the BBL Trophy. Sheffield last found themselves in the Trophy final in 2018, where they lost to the Riders 90-85.
They’ve won the competition twice, most recently in 2013, where they again met Leicester in the final. This season, they met NBL side the Thames Valley Cavaliers, winning 98-66. The reigning treble winners will be a tougher test for the visitors in this one, but it is a game they will believe they can win to progress to the BBL Trophy third round.
In Sheffield’s previous fixture, a 77-71 loss to the Caledonia Gladiators, Devearl Ramsey led the game with a 23 point performance. It was Ramsey’s first 20 point game in Sheffield in his fifth appearance after signing in January, as he hit three threes and knocked down eight of his nine free throws.
Ramsey is a second-year pro, who spent his rookie season in the NBA G-League. Before this, he spent three years at UC Santa Barbara, scoring 7.7 points per game in his final year. He played his rookie pro season for the Stockton Kings before moving to the BBL this season.
Ramsey is a 6’0” two-guard capable of playing in either wing position. Ramsey is active in the lane, attacking the rim for shots inside or handoffs to his teammates. He has good touch at the rim, and can draw fouls inside to get free ones at the line.
Taking on Ramsey for the Riders will be new addition, Carrington Love. The 29-year-old averaged 16.6 points and 5.8 assists last season in the German division two, playing for Eisbären Bremerhaven. He shot 47.4% from the field and 36.1% from three, finishing the year with a 16-13 record.
Love is a Green Bay graduate, having spent four years with the Phoenix between 2012 and 2016. He showed improvement every year, scoring a team-high 17.3 points per game as a senior.
He’s a sharpshooter from deep, and can breeze past defenders with flashy handles, finishing from all three levels or finding his teammates for assists. He put up eight points and five assists off the bench in his home debut vs the Scorchers, and will look for another solid effort in this one.
Where to watch
This is the Riders’ second straight home game, and tickets are selling fast. Get them here!
The game will also be streamed live on the British Basketball League Youtube channel, starting at 7:30 pm.