European basketball tips off on Tyneside tonight with Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles head coach Marc Steutel demanding more from his inconsistent roster.
The men in black make history as they welcome Basket Brno to the Vertu Motors Arena ahead of a hotly anticipated European North Basketball League (ENBL) clash.
And Steutel expects a robust response to last Friday’s tame loss at the hands of London Lions after admitting his tentative team was out-fought by the runaway league leaders.
“We’re excited for the ENBL game and it’s a good thing that we haven’t had too much time to dwell on the London defeat,” said Newcastle’s playcaller.
“Brno is an opportunity to get back out there and react in the right way to that first half on Friday.
“It’s exciting to be hosting the first ever competitive European basketball game at the Vertu Motors Arena.
“We know Brno are a quality basketball team with a high IQ but it’s our job to force them to play our style.”
Newcastle could — and should — have announced themselves on the European stage with a convincing win in Lithuania earlier this month.
But the Eagles allowed Siauliai to come on strong down the stretch to snatch a thrilling match-up with the final score of the night.
And Steutel added: “I think it will be a very similar game to the first ENBL fixture.
“It will be another clash of styles and a game of opposites. It’s going to be all about who can impose their style of play on the game first and who can maintain that dominance.
“Brno have two really experienced domestic guards who represent the core of their team.
“They also have a couple of talented imports who add some firepower to the front line.
“They’re another typical European basketball team — very organised and very committed to their approach.”
Commitment will be key to Newcastle’s hopes of pulling off a fourth win of the season against a side sitting fourth-bottom of the 12-team Czech top division with a 3-5 league record.
Steutel was furious with his side’s attitude and lack of application in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s loss to London.
And he explained: “I told the players that they needed to do some reflecting on how they can control intensity, focus and concentration.
“When you play against London they have weapons across every position on the roster: you have to maintain your level of intensity.
“The first five minutes were encouraging in terms of our own offence but I didn’t like how easily they were scoring.
“The guys need to reflect on our baseline habits and the minimum that’s expected of this team.
“If we had been out-basketballed and out-executed by a team as talented as London, playing in the EuroCup, then I would have been disappointed but I would have accepted the situation.
“Disappointingly, I thought we were out-competed and that’s just not acceptable for teams that I’m a part of.
“The second half was slightly better but my focus is on the first 20 minutes. If we play like that against any team in the league — let alone London Lions — we’re going to put ourselves in a hole.
“It’s the same for the Brno game. If we’re getting the right looks then we have to convert. I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.”
The North East’s top-flight basketball franchise was still based in Sunderland the last time competitive European basketball took centre stage in the region.
And Newcastle owner Paul Blake has waited almost 25 years to see a long-held dream become reality.
“It will be fantastic to see the Vertu Motors Arena host ENBL action for the first time and it’s a proud moment for everyone associated with the franchise,” he said.
“A lot of people — players past and present, staff and, of course, our supporters — have worked incredibly hard to put the club in this position.”
Tip-off is 7.30pm and tickets for the Eagles’ history-making Halloween Hoops showdown are available from the box office.