Brave Bourges, the electric Epoupa and questions for Schio
MUNICH (EuroLeague Women) – It was another interesting week in EuroLeague Women and our women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen has been looking over the main themes.
Bourges show courage
What a difference a week makes – or what a difference a few minutes in the locker-room with captain Elodie Godin makes! Bourges Basket were 1-5 heading into their home game against Sopron Basket. They allowed their opponents to open with a 12-0 run and were down by double-digits at half-time. They were staring down the barrel of an unthinkable 1-6.
Then, according to Godin, who told the players they needed to fight as though their lives depended on it, they produced their best basketball of the season to complete a 76-65 comeback win and actually ask some questions about the ambitions of Sopron, who crumbled weakly.
I have been a big critic of Bourges, but I have to state that their spirit and courage in adversity was tremendous and they actually played some very nice ball in that second-half. Although you could also argue that having seen this, it makes their 5 losses in 7 games seem almost worse and more difficult to accept!
Schio substance over style?
It has always been about discipline and defense for Coach Pierre Vincent, who has taken those fundamentals to Famila Schio to lay the foundation for a 5-2 start, which, when considering they have had major injury issues, is exceptional. What has been intriguing to me, is whether there could be something special on the horizon because against the backdrop of those building blocks of discipline and defense, Schio have the double act of Cecilia Zanadalasini and Jolene Anderson on the wings who can pour points through the hoop on offense.
This could be quite a combination and considering Zandalasini has more in her locker and is likely to come alive down the season stretch even more, Schio look to me like a team I would not be wanting to face in the post season. Yet I think Schio's own ambitions hinge on their backcourt and point guards, since while the likes of Francesca Dotto are very capable – are they able to hit a new level when we get to the business end of the season? And, will substance over style win the day?
Team Performance of the Week – I am going to get Castors Braine so upset for overlooking them for a second week in a row after they won brilliantly in Prague, but I have to hand it to Coach Olivier Lafargue and Bourges Basket for their second-half renaissance against Sopron.
Individual Performance of the Week – Keeping the French Connection, what an effort by Olivia Epoupa for Galatasaray against her former team ESBVA-LM. I always call her an electrifying guard and when she hits top gear, forget it. She is gone. What a line and what a display – just when the Istanbul side needed it most after their record-breaking defeat the week previously at Dynamo Kursk.
Cameo Performance of the Week – For the second week in a row, step forward Antonia Delaere. Castors Braine won that 1-point thriller in the Czech capital and while Celeste Trahan-Davis wrote the headlines, what about 11 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals from the Belgian winger? That is all-action and by the way, almost 38 minutes – that is major trust and an indication of how her stock is rising so fast, it is almost vertical!
Anastasiia Shilova hit 8 triples for Nadezhda against Yakin Dogu Universitesi and that is more long-range scores in a game than anyone else this season.
Elina Dikeoulakou (nee. Babkina) handed out 10 assists for CCC Polkowice against Dynamo Kursk and she becomes the 8th different player to get that number. Nobody has gone 11 assists or more yet – where is Laia Palau when you need her?
The 15 rebounds harvested by DeWanna Bonner for ZVVZ USK Prague against Castors Braine was the second highest tally of the season. She also hit that shot too - her non-plussed reaction perhaps underlining her talent and the fact she has seen and done it all before!
The last thing Maros Kovacik wants in his 1-6 predicament at Nadezhda is sympathy, but I did feel for him and his players as they were edged out by Yakin Dogu Universitesi. They knew as the worst scorers in the competition they had to step up their offensive production to take down one of the favorites and did exactly that, but still just came up short. It has been a familiar theme and now the absence of Alex Bentley continues to make you wonder what might have been.
Confidence is the gold dust that every team needs to be successful. Castors Braine winning 68-67 at Prague was a shining example of this. Very much the most entertaining game of the week, my two small children stayed up late to watch, given it was so compelling. What was most interesting is how having relinquished the lead to Prague in the closing minutes, Braine did not fold and accept defeat - they punched back. A fortnight ago they were 0-5. Now a bit like waiting ages for a bus, two wins have come along together. Hats off to them!
You can follow Paul via @basketmedia365