Championship Preview: Riders vs Gladiators

Round 14 of the British Basketball League Championship sees the Riders tip-off against the 11-5 Caledonia Gladiators.

Friday night is the first time the Morningside Arena will see the Gladiators this season, as Rob Paternostro’s squad look to notch their eighth championship win.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders vs Caledonia Gladiators

Morningside Arena, Leicester

Friday, December 15, 7:45pm

Get tickets here!

Allen to Make Debut

The most enticing feature of this week’s contest is the much-anticipated debut of Canadian Elite Basketball MVP, Teddy Allen.

Riders’ supporters will – for the first time – be witness to the skills of the Canadian league’s best player as he comes off a season averaging 27.6 points per game, eight rebounds per game and 1.7 steals per game.

The former Winnipeg Sea Bears guard had a record-breaking year for his team and should provide a significant offensive figurehead to Paternostro’s roster.

Allen – tall for a guard at 6’6” – brings an insatiable appetite for points, especially from beyond the arc, leading the CEBL in three-pointers made.

Leicester currently sit middle of the pack in three-pointers attempted per game with an average of nearly 25. Expect that number to take a leap on Friday night and potentially for the remainder of the season.

The Phoenix-native is also efficient from deep, hitting 72 triples at a clip of 36.5%, which will only add to the Riders’ already high accuracy from downtown.

Leicester’s defence has improved markedly in the last few weeks. With the introduction of an offensive anomaly like Allen, fans can expect scoring numbers to improve too – starting with the tilt against the Gladiators.

On a High

This week’s visitors are currently experiencing a terrific run of form. 

Coach Gareth Murray’s team are riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak, and it will take a good performance from Leicester to slow them down.

Three of those four victories were against the other teams in the BBL’s top four, illustrating the high level the Gladiators are reaching.

Murray likes his team to be a defensive wall inside the paint and to aggressively attack the basket to draw fouls on the other end.

Teams that struggle to shoot from distance find it particularly difficult to put up points on the Gladiators, who are the best in the British Basketball League at blocking shots (4.1 per game) and hustle hard on the defensive glass. They pull down 29.5 defensive rebounds each night, greatly limiting second chances.

Offensively, the regularity at which Caledonia make it to the free-throw line masks a 44.3 field goal percentage that sits in the bottom half of the league.

The Glads do possess some good shooters – primarily former Rider Patrick Whelan – but if the home side can avoid committing fouls and force contested shots, they have a chance to severely limit Caledonia’s scoring total.

Coupled with the efficient outside shooting of the Riders, it appears Paternostro’s squad match up favourably with Friday’s opponents.

Key Matchup

The back-and-forth between Teddy ‘Buckets’ and Whelan will be an entertaining watch, but the key matchup could well come down to a couple of experienced big men: Mo Walker and Fahro Alihodzic.

Alihodzic is an imposing centre who has plied his services all over the world, spending time in the United States, Argentina, Kosovo, Greece and here in Britain.

The 6’10” Bosnian-Brit will bring a good inside touch and rebounding strength, particularly on the defensive board.

Alihodzic currently averages 11 points per game, just over six rebounds per game and has notched a double-double on a couple of occasions this season.

A 19-point performance against Plymouth in November showed his offensive threat, but Riders’ defensive lynchpin Walker will be a tricky puzzle to solve.

The Riders’ stalwart has seen increased minutes over the past month, and his quality of play has taken a leap.

#9 may is an excellent inside link player on offense and focal point on defence.

By clogging up the paint, Walker provides space and opportunities for Leicester’s primary weapons, and his deftness of touch has seen him record assists in eight of his last 10 games.

If the Canadian-born Brit can lock up his opposite man while providing an outlet for the offense, the Riders should enjoy a lot of success on Friday night.