Fantasy Basketball

FIBA EuroLeague Women: Jones, Ekaterinburg to clash with Thomas, Praha

EuroLeague Women is back after a three-week break, though in limited capacity. Five games originally scheduled to be played this week (the 11th of the regular season) have been postponed due to “COVID-19 related disruptions,” according to FIBA:

Despite this, Week 11’s main attraction — a highly-anticipated game between UMMC Ekaterinburg (10-0) and ZVVZ USK Praha (8-2) — is still a go. The top two teams in Group A last met in Week 4, a dramatic 75-73 Ekaterinburg victory decided by Alex Bentley’s game-winning 3-pointer as the final buzzer sounded.

Since then, neither Ekaterinburg nor Praha has lost a single game, further setting up this week’s rematch as one between EuroLeague Women’s finest clubs. Praha, in particular, has been on the warpath, defeating opponents by an average margin of 25.5 points per game. The Connecticut Sun duo of Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones has been deadly, with Thomas leading the competition in assists per game (6.3) and Jones in efficiency per game (23.4). Jones was recently named EuroLeague Women MVP for the month of December.

Praha may be the competition’s last remaining hope of defeating Ekaterinburg. After a close call against Perfumerias Avenida back in Week 7, the Russian superteam has been on cruise control, and it’s getting even more reinforcements. Courtney Vandersloot is expected to suit up for Ekaterinburg after missing the first chunk of the season rehabbing a foot injury, per The Next’s James Kay; she’ll join a star-studded roster featuring Allie Quigley, Jonquel Jones, Brittney Griner, Emma Meesseman, Maria Vadeeva and Alba Torrens.

Needless to say, WNBA fans who are missing their favorite players would be well-advised to tune in for Wednesday’s big matchup, which will be streamed live and for free on FIBA’s EuroLeague Women YouTube channel. Here’s a breakdown of every other Week 11 contest; we should know more about the games that have been postponed soon.

Wednesday, January 12

MBA Moscow (2-8) vs. KSC Szekszárd (0-10)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Szekszárd Városi Sportcsarnok, Szekszárd

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Nina Glonti, Zhosselina Maiga (MBA Moscow); Dana Evans, Cyesha Goree, Nikolina Milić (KSC Szekszárd)

Matchup details: While the main thing to watch for this week is if Ekaterinburg will be dealt its first loss, Szekszárd is still searching for its first win. Not nearly as compelling as a storyline, of course, but still significant, as this is the Hungarian club’s first season participating in EuroLeague Women. While Evans’ arrival back in late November gave Szekszárd a boost, it wasn’t for very long; she’s been out since Week 7 due to injury. The last time these teams met, Moscow won 65-62, thanks largely in part to a 22-12 third quarter. Szekszárd will need another strong performance from Milić (19 points, seven rebounds and three steals in Week 4) and will try to limit Moscow’s prolific 3-point shooting this time around to earn its first EuroLeague Women victory.

UMMC Ekaterinburg (10-0) vs. ZVVZ USK Praha (8-2)

When: 1 p.m. ET

Where: Královka Arena, Prague

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Jonquel Jones, Brittney Griner, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Emma Meesseman, Maria Vadeeva, Alba Torrens, Alex Bentley (UMMC Ekaterinburg); Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Maria Conde (ZVVZ USK Praha)

Matchup details: While the last meeting between Ekaterinburg and Praha was one for the ages, it highlighted just how narrow the margin for error is for Ekaterinburg’s opponents. Neither Vandersloot nor Quigley played, and Ekaterinburg hit just three 3-pointers. Even with stronger guard play this time around, Ekaterinburg is still very much a frontcourt-dependent team. Praha is second to none in forcing turnovers (13.4 steals per game), so aggressive defense from Thomas and Jones will likely be the key in speeding Ekaterinburg up and ultimately pulling off the upset.

TTT Riga (4-6) vs. Umana Reyer (3-6)

When: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Palasport Taliercio, Venice

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Daugilė Šarauskaitė, Ieva Pulvere (TTT Riga); Astou Ndour-Fall, Kayla Thornton, Yvonne Anderson (Umana Reyer)

Matchup details: If FIBA’s EuroLeague Women power rankings are to be believed, this should be an even contest. Riga and Reyer ranked at No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, in the latest installment, and there are on-court implications of this matchup as well; despite the losing records, both clubs still have an outside shot at making the playoffs, though they’ll need some help from BLMA’s (5-5) upcoming opponents. In their last meeting, Riga got 19 points and 10 rebounds from Šarauskaitė en route to a 71-57 victory. Reyer was without Ndour-Fall in that one, so perhaps her presence will help the team deal with the Lithuanian center.

Saturday, January 15

Umana Reyer (3-6) vs. Perfumerias Avenida (7-2)

When: 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: Pabellón Municipal Würzburg, Salamanca

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Astou Ndour-Fall, Kayla Thornton, Yvonne Anderson (Umana Reyer); Kahleah Copper, Katie Lou Samuelson, Karlie Samuelson, Bella Alarie, Emese Hof, Silvia Dominguez, Maite Cazorla (Perfumerias Avenida)

Matchup details: This is actually a make-up game that was originally scheduled to take place back on Dec. 21 (Week 10) but was postponed due to COVID-19-related disruptions. The scheduling angle makes it intriguing; Reyer will have obviously played just days before and have to travel, while Avenida will be well-rested and playing at home. Should Praha lose to Ekaterinburg on Wednesday, Avenida will be presented with a golden opportunity to pull back into a tie for second place in Group A. Look for Copper (25.8 points per game) to continue her all-world-caliber play.

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