|Céline Dumerc will be at the forefront of UMMC's minds going into Friday's semi-final clash |
By Paul Nilsen
Ewelina Kobryn is adamant UMMC Ekaterinburg will be keeping a close eye on Bourges star Celine Dumerc when the playmaker tries to inspire an upset against her former club in the EuroLeague Women semi-finals.
Whilst it seems almost inconceivable that a David and Goliath battle could be thrown up at this stage of the tournament, UMMC are overwhelming favourites, with many people anticipating another one-sided game in favour of the in-form, host club.
However, the Polish center, who posted a useful contribution of 12 points against Galatasaray on the back of five-for-six floor shooting, insisted nobody will be taking Bourges lightly.
"They have played very good basketball and this is the reason why they find themselves in the last four," said Kobryn.
"They have good players and of course with Celine Dumerc, they have a player who can control the game."
"And, when a team has a player like Dumerc, we know that we have to really watch out and be ready."
Her caution was re-enforced by UMMC head coach Olaf Lange, although he was eager to stress the importance of focusing on Bourges as a team, rather than only the reigning FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year.
"I can only reiterate the words of Ewe, although it's never about only one player," said the play-caller.
"Bourges are a very strong defensive team who manage to keep games low-scoring and use their defence to keep themselves in games.
"But, we know that we will face a very good and strong half-court defence and that they will do everything they can in order to disrupt our flow as much as possible," continued Lange.
"So for me, Dumerc is a big part of it, but we just have to do a good job of trying to exploit their defence and definitely keeping our turnovers down."
The last time the finals were held in Ekaterinburg two years ago, Dumerc played over 32 minutes for the Russian club, but endured an off-night, making one-of-nine from the floor as the hosts crashed against their arch rivals Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.
Breakdown: The odds are heavily stacked in favour of UMMC, but if there is one team with the capacity to surprise, it's Bourges. They can't be under-estimated - evidenced by their two victories this season against a team as good as Sparta&K. Interestingly, whilst all the talk leading into the game understandably surrounds Dumerc, the team still managed to find a second win to reach the semi-finals without a significant contribution from the jewel in their crown. It was Marissa Coleman and Johannah Leedham who stepped up against Schio and that re-enforces the notion that Bourges are far from being a one-player team. It may be tempting to push the ball down the floor with even more vigour than usual against a short-handed opponent, but as Lange suggests, patience and not committing turnovers is key. Their screening and ball movement has been excellent so far and if this continues alongside the unwavering commitment to tough defence, then they will justify their status as big favourites.
|Anete Jekabsone has been in good form this week for UMMC as she continues her road to recovery following an ACL injury|
Key Match Up: With limited experience in the competition, Great Britain star Leedham probably never anticipated being involved in a game such as this at the start of the season. However, she is likely to now be tasked with having to guard a combination of Diana Taurasi, the in-form Anete Jekabsone and Deanna Nolan. She has quick hands and they are likely to be needed at regular intervals for this game.
Stats Don't Lie: No team has managed to score 46 points or more against UMMC this week to show that whilst star-laden, it hasn't all been about offence. Candace Parker scored six points in the first game of the current season, but has corralled a double-digit score in every game since and is therefore now looking to extend that run to 12 games - quite an achievement playing in such a stacked team.