2008-09 EuroLeague Update Vol. 5: End of Prelims
Two-time defending EuroLeague champion Spartak Moscow Region (9-1) remain on their march to a third straight title as the 24 teams that started the season have now been pared to 16. What the Euros dub as the Eighth-Finals is what we in America call the Sweet Sixteen and the match-ups are all set. Instead of what we think of as March Madness, in Europe it's more like January, February and April madness. Yes, they stretch the playoffs out and games are played over three different months. The Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight (or quarterfinals) are played in a best of three series with the higher seed hosting the first and (if necessary) third games. The Final Four, however, is single elimination. But one thing is different. In EuroLeague Final Four action the losers play a consolation game to determine third and fourth place.
Let's Not Forget the â€˜Other League'
In EuroCup action, Seimone Augustus posted a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Taj McWilliams-Franklin poured in a game-high of 22 points and 10 rebounds as Galatasary cruised to a 96-67 Sixteenth-Finals (Round of 32) victory over Municipal Targoviste. Unlike the EuroLeague, the EuroCup playoffs are two games with the scores of both games added up and the winner decided by point differential. Because of that, teams have to continue to score as much as possible, even if they are ahead by 20 points. It might not seem sportsmanlike to you or me, but it could mean the difference of advancing or going skiing (it's winter there, folks!).
|1. Bourges Basket||7-3|
|2. Halcon Avenida||7-3|
|3. Wisla Can-Pack||6-4|
|4. MiZo Pecs 2010||5-5|
|5. Besiktas Cola Turka||3-7|
|1. Umana Reyer Venezia||7-3|
|2. MKB Euroleasing Sopron||6-4|
|3. CSKA Moscow||6-4|
|4. Gambrinus SIKA Brno||4-6|
|5. TTT Riga||4-6|
|6. ESB Lille Metropole||3-7|
|1. UMMC Ekaterinburg||9-1|
|2. Ros Casares Valencia||8-2|
|3. LOTOS PKO BP Gdynia||4-6|
|4. ZVVZ USK Prague||4-6|
|5. Union Hainaut Basket||3-7|
|6. Jolly JBS Sibenik||2-8|
|1. Spartak Moscow Region||9-1|
|3. Maxima Broker Kosice||6-4|
|4. TEO Vilnius||5-5|
|5. Beretta Famila Schio||3-7|
|6. Basket Lattes Montpellier||1-9|
In a battle to see who would not finish in last place, Besiktas Cola Turka (3-7) came out on top of a 76-72 win over Nadezhda (2-8). The game had no other implications in standings as both teams were already eliminated from the Round of 16, which is too bad for Laura Harper, who had yet another double-double (19 points, 18 rebounds) in the win. For those of you scoring at home, that was her seventh double-double in 10 EuroLeague games played. Think her previous experience with USA Basketball had a little something to do with how she seamlessly transitioned to the international style of play?
Bourges Basket (7-3) clinched the top spot in Group A with a 75-48 thrashing of MiZo Pecs 2010 (5-5), which advances in the fourth and final spot in the group. Kelly Mazzante scored 10 points for the Hungarian side.
Halcon Avenida (7-3) received 12 points and nine rebounds from Michelle Snow as it powered past Wisla Can-Pack (6-4) 72-59. Candice Dupree, who posted a pair of double-doubles in her first two games with Wisla Can-Pack, was held to eight points and six rebounds in the Krakow club's loss. Halcon Avenida tied Bourges in the win-loss column, however, lost on goal differential and advances in second place, while the Polish club, playing again without Olympian Chamique Holdsclaw, who returned to the States for knee surgery and should be back for the next round, finished in the third spot.
Umana Reyer (7-3), which won its first seven games and clinched Group B's top spot, closed out preliminary play on a three-game losing streak after falling to CSKA Moscow (6-4) 80-72. Katie Douglas had 13 points and three boards, while Janelle McCarville chipped in seven points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals in the win.
MKB Euroleasing (6-4) got a late three to take Gambrinus (4-6) 76-73 and clinch the No. 2 seed out of Group B, while Gambrinus earned the No. 4 spot due to the tie-breaking formula that gave the Czech club the edge over TTT Riga (4-6). Gambrinus received 15 points, four rebounds and four assists from Tamika Whitmore.
With both teams playing for nothing but pride, the home team of TTT Riga (4-6) took the victory over ESB Lille Metropole (3-7) 77-70 to close their 2008-09 EuroLeague season. Much along the same lines as former USA Basketball teammate Laura Harper, Essence Carson closed out her rookie EuroLeague season with another top performance with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists for TTT Riga. In her nine EuroLeague contests, Carson averaged 18.8 ppg., 5.8 rpg. and 2.7 apg.
ZVVZ USK Prague (4-6) took LOTOS PKO BP (4-6) 69-64, but it wasn't by enough points to earn the tie-breaker (point differential) and finished in fourth place, relegated to meet up with two-time defending champs Spartak Moscow Region in the next round. LOTOS, meanwhile, finished third and will face Fenerbache in the Sweet Sixteen. Lindsay Whalen poured in 16 points, while adding four rebounds and four steals, while Swin Cash posted eight points and eight rebounds for the winning Czech club. Alana Beard had a game-high 20 points, while adding five rebounds and four steals in her team's losing effort.
Top-placing team in Group C, UMMC Ekaterinburg (9-1), had no trouble dispatching the visiting Union Hainaut Basket (3-7) 85-56 in the final day of preliminary action. Asjha Jones (9 points, 6 rebounds) and Cappie Pondexter (5 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals) advance with their Russian club to the next round, and are rumored to be joined in the next round by Candace Parker, while Union Hainaut Basket played its final EuroLeague match of the season.
Ros Casares (8-2) continued its winning streak by dropping Group C last-place finisher Jolly JBS Sibenik (2-8) 89-72. DeLisha Milton-Jones turned in another impressive game with 20 points, six rebounds, a pair of assists and a pair of blocked shots, while Roneeka Hodges scored 10 points to go with six boards.
In a battle for third place, Broker Kosice (6-4) came out on top of TEO Vilnius (5-5) 75-66, thanks in no small part to Sidney Spencer's 25 points and seven rebounds. Crystal Langhorne also turned in an impressive performance with 19 points and nine rebounds for the Lithuanian side.
Spartak Moscow Region (9-1) had an easy time in their final preliminary game with a 103-48 win over last place Lattes Montpellier (1-9). Diana Taurasi poured in 21 of her game-high 23 points in the first 12 minutes of play, while posting eight rebounds and four assists. -We had to focus on this game because Montpellier is a better team than the results and statistics show," Taurasi was quoted on the FIBA Europe site. -We are now happy and hoping that after the break we will continue playing well. I wish all a Merry Christmas and peace on earth." In addition to Taurasi, Sylvia Fowles added 18 points and eight rebounds, while Sue Bird had 11 points and five assists. For the French club, Sheana Mosch contributed nine points, four rebounds and three assists.
Knowing it was out of EuroLeague action didn't stop visiting Beretta Famila (3-7), which downed eventual Group D second place finisher Fenerbache (6-4) 80-64, in their final EuroLeague contest. Tasha Humphrey aided in the victory with 13 points and five rebounds, while Matee Ajavon contributed seven points and four assists for Fenerbache.
2008-09 EuroLeague Sweet Sixteen (Jan. 27, 30 & Feb. 4 [if necessary])
The EuroLeague playoffs feature a best-of-three series to advance to the next round. Teams listed first have the home court advantage and will play home, away and, if necessary, home. Below is a very brief synopsis of the Eighth-Finals games.
Bourges Basket vs. Gambrinus SIKA Brno
Both teams competed in last season's Final Four and faced each other in the semifinals. Gambrinus SIKA Brno advanced to the title game after defeating the French club 90-81. Bourges didn't fare well in the third place game and was edged by a point, 70-69, by UMMC Ekaterinburg. Look for Bourges, which has improved since a year ago, to advance to the next round.
Umana Reyer Venezia vs. MiZo Pecs 2010
EuroLeague newcomers Umana Reyer Venezia has enjoyed a stellar inaugural season so far. Will it continue? Pitted against the seasoned MiZo Pecs 2010 club, this series match-up should make for a good battle and is too close to call.
Halcon Avenida Salamanca vs. CSKA Moscow
CSKA has had an up and down season, not only was the club shuttered for a few days, it has suffered losses to low-ranked teams and also won against top-ranked squads. However, take away the forfeit game due to the CSKA shut-down and both teams only have three losses on the season. After winning the 2005 title and returning to the Final Four the next two years, CSKA was stopped short in last year's quarterfinals by UMMC Ekaterinburg. Look for the Russian club with Katie Douglas and Janel McCarville to advance to the next round, but not without a good fight by Michelle Snow and Halcon Avenida.
MKB Euroleasing Sopron vs. Wisla CAN-PACK Krakow
As mentioned above, the Krakow club is likely to have Chamique Holdsclaw back for the playoffs and that will make a big difference in this series. The big question will be what Wisla will do with their roster upon the return of Holdsclaw, who was replaced by Candice Dupree, who averaged 12.7 ppg. and 11.0 rpg. in her three games with the club. If Holdsclaw is back and Krakow retains Dupree, the Polish side will take it in three.
UMMC Ekaterinburg vs. TEO Vilnius
Another club that will get a big boost, not that it isn't stacked with enough talent, is UMMC Ekaterinburg. It's rumored that Candace Parker will join the Russian club following the holidays and that will make this series even more lopsided in Ekaterinburg's favor.
Spartak Moscow Region vs. ZVVZ USK Prague
Two-time defending champion Spartak Moscow Region chalked up its only loss of the season in the second game and has been on an eight-game winning streak since then. The Prague squad, even with Swin Cash and Lindsay Whalen, are no match for the likes of Sue Bird, Sylvia Fowles and Diana Taurasi, not to mention Australia's Lauren Jackson and the rest of the Russian contingent.
Ros Casares Valencia vs. Maxima Broker Kosice
Ros Casares Valencia is loaded with talent and seems to be peaking at the right time. Featuring players like DeLisha Milton-Jones, who has two EuroLeague titles under her belt, the Spanish club should advance past Kosice and into the Elite Eight.
Fenerbahce SK vs. Lotos PKO BP Gdynia
This one is a toss-up, but given the home court advantage Fenerbache should take it in three. Fenerbache has the better record at 6-4, with the Poles finishing with a 4-6 slate, however, both have a couple of top U.S. players in Matee Ajavon (Fenerbache) and Alana Beard (Lotos).
USA Basketball Athletes Among the EuroLeague's Top 20 Statistical Leaders Through 10 Games
|Points per game|
|2.||Carson, Essence||TTT Riga||9||169||18.8|
|3.||Mosch, Sheana||Lattes Montpellier||10||187||18.7|
|4.||Langhorne, Crystal||TEO Vilnius||10||185||18.5|
|5.||Harper, Laura||Besiktas Cola Turka||10||180||18.0|
|8.||Holdsclaw, Chamique||Wisla Can-Pack||5||88||17.6|
|10.||Milton-Jones, DeLisha||Ros Casares||10||173||17.3|
|16.||Spencer, Sidney||Broker Kosice||10||155||15.5|
|19.||Beard, Alana||LOTOS PKO BP||10||154||15.4|
|Rebounds per game|
|1.||Harper, Laura||Besiktas Cola Turka||10||82||38||120||12.0|
|2.||Langhorne, Crystal||TEO Vilnius||10||59||42||101||10.1|
|5.||Snow, Michelle||Halcon Avenida||10||67||23||90||9.0|
|Assists per game|
|6.||Pondexter, Cappie||UMMC Ekaterinburg||10||47||1.6||4.7|
|Steals per game|
|4.||Hornbuckle, Alexis||Besiktas Cola Turka||8||22||2.8|
|5.||Beard, Alana||LOTOS PKO BP||10||27||2.7|
|7.||Holdsclaw, Chamique||Wisla Can-Pack||5||13||2.6|
|14.||Milton-Jones, DeLisha||Ros Casares||10||23||2.3|
|18.||Anderson, Jolene||ESB Lille Metropole||9||19||2.1|
|19.||Whalen, Lindsay||ZVVZ USK Prague||9||19||2.1|
|Blocked Shots per game|
|2.||Harper, Laura||Besiktas Cola Turka||10||15||1.5|
|15.||Snow, Michelle||Halcon Avenida||10||9||0.9|
|Field Goal Percentage|
|3.||Langhorne, Crystal||TEO Vilnius||10||77||128||60.2|
|8.||Milton-Jones, DeLisha||Ros Casares||10||67||120||55.8|
|15.||Whalen, Lindsay||ZVVZ USK Prague||9||48||91||52.7|
|16.||Mosch, Sheana||Lattes Montpellier||10||68||130||52.3|
|3-Point Field Goal Percentage|
|4.||Spencer, Sidney||Broker Kosice||10||23||43||53.5|
|15.||Anderson, Jolene||ESB Lille Metropole||9||15||35||42.9|
|Free Throw Percentage|
|2.||Mosch, Sheana||Lattes Montpellier||10||39||44||88.6|
|6.||Whalen, Lindsay||ZVVZ USK Prague||9||36||42||85.7|
|13.||Douglas, Katie||CSKA Moscow||9||36||44||81.8|
|14.||Beard, Alana||LOTOS PKO BP||10||30||37||81.1|
|19.||Currie, Monique||LOTOS PKO BP||6||16||20||80.0|
|20.||Holdsclaw, Chamique||Wisla Can-Pack||5||12||15||80.0|