EuroCup Women Semi-Finals first leg preview: Tuesday 21 March
MUNICH (EuroCup Women) – We look forward to the first leg of the EuroCup Women Semi-Finals as four Turkish clubs battle it out in pursuit of the prestigious silverware.
Hatay BSB v Bellona Agu
Bellona Agu have had their share of previous heartache (previously as Agu Spor and Kayseri Kaski spor) in the competition and after two unsuccessful Final trips, they would love to put things right by landing the Trophy. Another big crowd will be in attendance in Antakya as the locals look to roar Hatay to a first-leg cushion for the return game in Kayseri. The hosts are mid-table in the Turkish League, but have kept some of their best basketball for European competition after making positive waves in their maiden EuroLeague Women season.
Records So Far: Bellona Agu have lost once all season in the competition, which was a 71-63 reverse at Spar Citylift Girona in the Round of 8 and head into the game with an eye-catching 11-1 record. Hatay won both legs of their Quarter-Finals tie against Wisla Can-Pack and previously posted a 7-7 Regular Season in EuroLeague Women.
Key Match-Up: It’s all about the paint for Bellona Agu and whether their superior rotation can help to wear down the outstanding Hatay center Courtney Paris who has been sensational. But, in Turkey’s naturalized star Lara Sanders, they have their own heavyweight and it will be fun watching the duo slug it out under the hoop and try to control the glass.
- Veteran Ann Wauters won the competition two years ago at ESBVA-LM on home soil in Belgium.
- Courtney Paris is averaging a phenomenal season double-double of 16.3 points and 13.7 boards per game across EuroLeague and EuroCup Women.
- Bellona Agu have the best field goal shooting of any EuroCup Women team with a wonderful 51 percent.
What They Say: "We are going towards the target only step by step. We promised [everyone in] Kayseri that because we have played in Finals before, we really want to play in one again. And, I think we can as we really want to break the bad luck that we had in the past. However, there is one more important step in front of us." Bellona Agu head coach, Ayhan Avci.
Galatasaray v Yakin Dogu Universitesi
Competition rookies Yakin Dogu Universitesi are being tipped by many observers of the women’s game to go all the way. They already have the Turkish Cup in the trophy cabinet and are leading the KBSL. It’s been a super first EuroCup Women campaign too, with their stacked roster proving too much for most of their opponents. Swingman Kayla McBride is just one of the players who is on fire and they even went and recently added Belarusian legend Yelena Leuchanka to their already deep frontcourt.
Galatasaray know what it is like to win EuroCup Women as they did exactly that back in 2009. Only veteran playmaker Isil Alben has survived from that famous triumph – although an even greater followed when the club conquered EuroLeague Women. Having lost in their last Turkish League outing which was a disappointing derby loss at Besiktas, they will want to bounce straight back.
Records So Far: Yakin Dogu Universitesi have lost twice in the competition, once during the Qualifiers and then in the Round of 8 against Reyer Venezia. They have a 12-2 record, while Galatasaray can boast an 11-1 record having only suffered defeat once when they lost the first-leg of the Quarter-Finals at Good Angels Kosice.
Key Match-Up: The backcourt battle will be titanic in every way. Whether it is the lightening-quick Moriah Jefferson or hugely experienced Alben, the Galatasaray duo are going to have to try and overcome Courtney Vandersloot and disrupt her game. The recently naturalized Hungary national team point guard has been the driving force behind the rise to prominence of Yakin Dogu Universitesi. Controlling the tempo really could be the key.
- Yakin Dogu Universitesi forward Bahar Caglar spent eight seasons playing for Galatasaray including their 2009 title and will go up against her ex-employers for the first time in European club competition.
- Galatasaray have never lost at home in the competition.
- Galatasaray are the tournament’s leading scorers with 77.2 points per game.
What They Say: "Now we are in the Semi-Finals, we want to win this trophy again," Galatasaray and Turkey national team guard, Isil Alben.