Answers for TTT Riga, questions for Fenerbahce and the super Rupert headline talking points
MUNICH (Germany) - The penultimate week of the EuroLeague Women Regular Season lived up to expectation as some Play-Off tickets got punched and the dreams of others were put on hold.
Here are the main talking points - according to our women's specialist Paul Nilsen, aka @Basketmedia365
Answers for TTT Riga
Having had a few wobbles along the way on their excellent return to the competition, the burning question for TTT Riga was whether they could win two games against one of the biggest clubs. Important because with the post-season looming, they had to show it could be done. It is not guaranteed that it will be repeated of course, but completing a double over a juggernaut like Fenerbahce had that extra significance. Now they can beat (just about) anybody, having also come close against Dynamo Kursk not once, but twice, they have to be a handful in the Play-Offs. Especially if they snatch second spot in the group. So, they gave a resounding yes to a very important question and credit for that.
Questions for Fenerbahce
In contrast to TTT Riga answering questions, I was left scratching my head and scribbling down more questions about this Fenerbahce season. I will do what I always seem to do, start by caveating this with the fact it could all turn out to be fine in the end. But, how bad was that first half against Riga? As a colleague put it, it really takes something special to play that poorly and only score 25 points in a half with a roster stacked with that level of talent and probably costing a fortune. Still, it was another close one (as has become common) and at least the second half displayed (as has become common) there is nothing wrong with the spirit as they fought back. So, the biggest question is why so inconsistent and why so offensively poor? Fenerbahce surely need better and with due respect to Riga, there is no way they should be losing twice in a season to TTT.
The brilliance of Rupert
One week after flagging the fact that teenage ace Iliana Rupert recorded her first ever double-digit points return in the competition, she has been turning heads yet again. The Bourges Basket sensation became only the second player this season in EuroLeague Women to block 5 shots when she achieved the feat against Castors Braine. This weekend, Rupert would ordinarily be at the Global Basketball Without Borders camp and many months ago, she was the first name on my list and I assume, the NBA's too. But she has serious business to take care of this side of the Pond as she shows why she is rated so highly and I am saying this now - she may only be 17 years old, but France should be taking her to the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 in June. For me, it's a no-brainer and shades of Sandrine Gruda many years ago being good enough to be fast-tracked.
That Kovacik defensive blanket and class of Kaltsidou
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You have to hand it to Maros Kovacik at CCC Polkowice who continues to show that from a defensive standpoint, there are few better playcallers out there. Throughout his career, he has shown that stopping opponents scoring is a big upside in his armory. Having held Nadezhda to just 36 points in their first meeting, his team leaked 33 points in the first half alone in Orenburg. They also trailed in the game. Yet once again, the 'master of the D' came up trumps and his players held Nadezhda to just six points in the last period to take the win. It was not pretty, but highly effective and I did smile when I watched Stella Kaltsidou ending up with 20 points being so instrumental in the success. That is just her kind of game and she has had plenty of practice playing in a modest Greece side all her career who have fought and dug out so many wins this way! Oh and of course, adding that bit of real quality. I think any list of super Europeans not to have played in the WNBA should include her!
Under the radar
- Lisa Berkani has been under the radar all season at Le Prado and this looks like a smart move by all parties.
- With the help of those 5 swatted shots from Rupert mentioned earlier, Bourges Basket set a competition season-high of 9 blocks in their clash with Castors Braine.
- No team has pulled down more rebounds in a game this season than the 57 harvested by UMMC Ekaterinburg against Famila Schio.