EuroLeague Women Week 1 Reflections
MUNICH (EuroLeague Women) – It was a typically entertaining start to the new EuroLeague Women season and our women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen has been reflecting on the main themes.
There is only one place to start and that is with Yakin Dogu Universitesi who made history by getting their maiden win in the tournament at their first attempt. The victory was not convincing as they eventually outlasted Famila Schio 67-64, but they showed a spirit and determination that reminded you why they have won so much silverware in the past 12 months.
Winning games in EuroLeague Women is tough, doing so when you are not at your best is even more difficult. Credit to Courtney Vandersloot and Kayla McBride for their contributions, but a special shout to Quanitra Hollingsworth. Clearly off rhythm, she rolled up her sleeves and came up with a giant 16 boards and three blocked shots. Absolutely priceless and showing that even when one part of your game is not productive, you can turn up the heat in other areas to help the team.
Galling for Galatasaray and super for Sopron Basket
If there was one surprise result, it was Sopron beating Galatasaray 72-55. I was shocked at how blunt the visitors were offensively. There is no need to press the panic button after one game of course and Marina Maljkovic will get it right with her track record. It seemed to be one of those nights when nothing would drop, although I do think the tempo was too slow.
Talking of track records, Roberto Iniguez has one of the best in this competition and what a way to get his reign at Sopron Basket underway! He was shrewd enough to make sure nobody got excited afterwards and point out that the healthy winning margin did not reflect the game.
The form of the Serbian contingent in Aleksandra Crvenadakic and Tina Jovanovic in particular, was a big reason for cheer for Sopron fans. However, the one common theme that both these clubs have is that they don't have huge depth. So, much is going to hinge on staying healthy if they want a shot of the post-season and even Final Four.
Bonus time for ZVVZ USK Praha
The trauma of losing Sonja Petrovic, Kia Vaughn and Laia Palau evaporated in 40 minutes for ZVVZ USK Praha as they completed that absorbing 64-61 win against Tango Bourges, who in truth, I had expected to perform better. This felt like such a bonus victory for the home side with DeWanna Bonner still due to give them a lift when she belatedly arrives.
Leadership is integral to any team and in the wake of their big performers departing in the summer, one of my favorite players Marta Xargay picked up the mantle emphatically with a game-winning performance! There were also a couple of the Plays of the Week in this contest.
Delaere leads debutantes
There were plenty of debutantes this week and surely Antonia Delaere of Castors Braine was the pick. The Belgian national team wing is slowly but surely emerging from the shadows to show she can be a top-level player.
She deservedly made the Team of the Week with her 20-point haul in the loss at Kursk. At 23-years-old, the time to deliver has come, with her form also great news for Philip Mestdagh and Belgium, ahead of next month's FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 Qualifiers – and with the countdown to the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup now less than a year away.
Team Performance of the Week – Huge credit to Sopron Basket, but I have got to hand it to ZVVZ USK Praha for beating a Tango Bourges Basket packed with France national team players.
Individual Performance of the Week – I am going for Kayla McBride on the basis that she wasn't necessarily having her very best shooting night, but she still scored 20 points and came up with the clutch play for Yakin Dogu Universitesi in that dramatic and landmark success against Schio.
Cameo Performance of the Week – Behind the headline contribution of Xargay and near double-double of Amanda Zahui, I thought the 15 points (5 of 8 shooting) by Alena Hanusova was priceless for Praha.
Alysha Clark was on the losing side for CCC Polkowice at ESBVA-LM but achieved a tournament game-high of 7 in offensive rebounding and also 5 in steals.
Belgian playmaker Marjorie Carpreaux also didn't come out with a win for Castors Braine at Dynamo Kursk, but did set the highest number of assists with 8.
Ana Dabovic made a return to EuroLeague Women after five years away and posted a perfect line. She had 11 points for Fenerbahce and didn't miss a shot all night!
Credit to Maros Kovacik and Nadezhda who were short-handed without their USA players, but came together to almost pull off an upset at Fenerbahce. There were some very positive displays from their Russian players and Sandra Ygueravide showed her experience. Tipped to struggle this year in comparison to recent seasons, this performance by Orenburg suggested they could be a lot tougher and productive than they look on paper.
Sonja Petrovic – is there anything left to say? I did write multiple times she was one of only 2-3 world class players that could really improve Dynamo Kursk and she rolled up with a stylish 26-point opening effort for the champions. Out of the top drawer as usual and efficiency-wise, it was the best display of the week in the competition.
I am coming to the conclusion that perhaps Lara Sanders could be the signing of the off-season. The new UMMC arrival provides stellar competition for Brittney Griner and is a more varied and skilled player who complements both Griner (in a twin towers scenario) and Emma Meesseman. I am looking forward to their battles with other talented frontcourts such as Avenida next week, when it will be a colossal battle against Erika Souza, Angelica Robinson and Laura Nicholls. I am thinking 'ouch' just thinking about that war in the paint!
You can follow Paul via @basketmedia365