by Paul Nilsen
There were surprises galore in the Eighth Finals as four lower ranked teams maximised home advantage to claim precious wins and a valuable cushion for the second game on the road.
Paul Nilsen reviews the action from the opening game of the Eighth Finals and looks at what's potentially in store for game two as the clubs battle it out to punch their ticket for the Quarter Finals.
While three teams looking to have already put one foot and four more toes into the last eight of the tournament, everything is still to play for in the other five games which could still go either way.
Botas (2) - USO Mondeville (15)
Arguably the biggest surprise came in France where USO Mondeville ran out 69-58 winners against the previously unbeaten Botas after a remarkable turnaround which had seen them initially trailing 32-18 during the first half.
The most interesting dimension to this game was the contrasting fortunes of two respective debutantes. It was a night Katerina Zohnova will be all too glad to have in her memory bank since the Czech Republic shooting guard grabbed 15 points for the victorious team while Noel Kuin barely got a mention on the stat sheet during as limited 10 minute window of opportunity.
It's certainly not over though and Botas can point to USO Mondeville having crashed by 19 points on the road to Elitzur Ramla in the last round. However, if the second seeds are to avoid being eliminated prematurely they need to light it up from the perimeter once again since three-point shooting has been a main reason of Botas' success so far.
Besiktas JK (7) - Gran Canaria 2014 (10)
|Ilona Korstin and Besiktas JK have a mountain to climb when they host Cran Canaria for game two|
You really have to tip your hat once again in sheer admiration and respect for Astou Ndour, a nominee for Young Player of the Year, who just can't stop lighting up this competition after racking up 18 points and 15 rebounds against an opposing frontcourt containing Ebony Hoffman and Yasemin Horasan.
Knowing the danger this teenage terror poses is one thing but stopping her quite another as the Spanish team claimed a famous win and gave themselves every chance of finishing the job with a 69-60 home floor victory.
Even the presence of Candice Wiggins couldn't prevent the Turkish team from needing to win by double digits at home to advance.
Besiktas can't afford to give up as much penetration in game two and allow Gran Canaria so many opportunities from the line with the Spaniards racking up 24 of 29 free-throws during game one.
Respect is also due to another rising star in 1995 born Leticia Romero who racked up 25 minutes of action and is another exciting prospect for Spain.
Optimum TED Ankara (8) - MBK Ruzomberok (9)
MBK Ruzomberok didn't do anything differently from what they have done all season long and it allowed them to come away with a 71-65 success although whether this will be enough when they get to Ankara remains to be seen.
In particular since having shot the ball well from outside as they usually do, they found themselves 61-43 ahead and with a glorious opportunity to take a super-sized cushion into game two the win must have felt like a loss after the sloppy finish.
It promises to be a super second game and the Ankara fans can thank Gulsah Akkaya who was the only player on her team to reach double digits with 21 points.
Hainaut Basket (6) - Dexia Namur (11)
A final quarter drought handed the initiative to the French team in this tie as Hainut Basket returned from the short trip to Belgium with a 69-63 win. Dexia Namur could only muster nine points during the last quarter and that proved to be decisive.
A good start in game two will be essential to put some doubt into the minds of the home players and fans who could be in danger of taking things for granted.
Elitzur Ramla (3) - Kayseri Kaskispor (14)
The defending champions are now clinging on to their title by their fingernails and had it not been for a terrific performance by teenage talent Ana Turcinovic, Elitzur Ramla could have already been staring an exit from the competition squarely in the face.
The 18 year old Montengrin forward scored 17 points to limit the damage as the Israeli club crashed 79-69 in Kayseri. She was one of only two players to get into double digits as Shay Doron poured in 19 points.
Most worryingly for Elitzur Ramla is that they couldn't capitalise on the hosts both committing 23 turnovers and mis-firing from downtown. Le'Coe Willingham was instrumental in securing the success against her former team with a super double-double and will be looking to pile on the agony in game two.
In their favour, Elitzur Ramla are unbeaten in their last nine EuroCup Women games at home although winning by eleven points or more is another proposition altogether. Just like last season when they finished top of the podium, they are averaging around 74 points per game and so they are going to probably have to produce something special defensively to overturn their decidedly sticky situation.
Kayseri have lots of experience now with the addition of Andja Jelavic and she could be key as a veteran playmaker who is capable of dictating the tempo in the second game. Meanwhile it must be so tempting for head coach Ayhan Avic to focus even more intensely on stopping the prolific Shay Doron and asking a big question of her team-mates who would need to show they can provide the firepower if she is kept under lock and key in game two.
Dynamo Kursk (1) - Horizont (16)
Dynamo Kursk took the train to Minsk and came away with their title ambitions on track and looking like a EuroCup Women express which could prove difficult to derail. Fittingly, this convincing 82-55 success was mainly due to the homegrown quartet of Natalia Vodopyanova, Ekaterina Lisina, Anna Petrakova and Yuliya Rytsikava who top scored for the Russian team. Their passage to the quarter-finals looks as near to a formality as you could expect.
Chevakata (4) - Lotto Young Cats (13)
Chevakata are another Russian club who powered their way to an imposing road win and they find themselves on the verge of the last eight. They romped to an 82-55 win in Belgium - despite the best efforts of teenager Emma Meesseman who claimed yet another double-double for the hosts.
Unable to cope with the ball pressure and trashed on the glass, it will be another long night for the Cats in Russia but the experience absolutely invaluable to this young team.
Arras (5) - Basket Landes (12)
In a tie with eight quarters of basketball between two French teams not too far apart in their domestic league, it was a shame for neutral fans that this match-up looked to be all but over inside the first period.
Arras raced out of the blocks and left the home fans stunned by producing a quite devastating 27-8 first quarter which caught Basket Landes cold. In fact, they were freezing all night especially from downtown where they were 0 of 11.
You simply can't afford four key players in Anais Le Gluher-Cano, Amelie Pochet, Katarina Manic and Justyna Zurowska all having an off night during such a big game. The quartet were a truly excruciating 4 of 34 from the field with each player only making a solitary shot each.