By Yarone Arbel
Day eight of EuroBasket 2007 showed good news for a Czech side who woke up in crunch time to beat Belgium, the Lithuanian team stepping up from long range in the last quarter and another show by Ann Wauters of Belgium.
Meanhile, it was bad news for Belgium and Germany who’d like to forget at least some parts of their last game.
The Good News
True Champs – If you’re a true champ you also need to look like one. Teams who enter a competition as champs but don’t have what it takes to make their opponents fear them,
were champs by luck (as long as the roster isn’t drastically different). The Czech Republic showed they are made of that material. In a tough game against Belgium they sent a message, not for the first time, that even if you catch them on a so-so day you still need to fear them. They were down by eight entering the last 6:19 of the game, but after that played almost perfect. They were four out of five from the line, including the last two which won them the game. They hit five out of seven from the field, and even the two missed shots were corrected with offensive rebounds. Only two possessions finished with no points and that was exactly enough to keep Belgium at arms length. Fear the champs. Fear the Czechs.
|Wauters has had some huge games but they haven't always equalled Belgian wins.|
Lithuanian Tradition – One thing Lithuanian basketball is known for is their great three-point shooters. Not only at the guard position but from their big people as well. In their must-win game against Turkey the Lithuanian women showed they can do it too. They finished the game 11 out of 19 from long range but pay attention to the last quarter. After three close quarters Lithuania used the long ball to pull away. They started the last ten minutes down by one but then hit four aces in a row without a miss. Turkey didn’t give up though and entered the last minute tied at 61-61. But then Rima Valentiene hit her fourth three-pointer of the game and center Iveta Marcauskaite hit her third three as Lithuania won 67-61 behind six out of seven shooting from long range in the deciding quarter.
Unstoppable Wauters – One of the main reasons Belgium is going to the quarters with confidence they can match the big teams here is Ann Wauters. The center of the Belgium team has seemed unstoppable in the last four games. Against Romania she posted a 20 points and 10 rebound double-double with just one missed shot. Against Turkey she managed only 13 points and five rebounds but that’s because Belgium won easily and Wauters didn’t play big minutes. In the last two games, against Latvia and Czech Republic, she pushed up her numbers again. 30 points and nine rebounds in the first match with 61.1% from two-point range were followed with another big double-double, this time 22 points and 12 rebounds against the tough front line of the defending champs, and still keeping her percentages no lower than 60% around the rim.
The Bad News
Belgium Can’t Handle Pressure – In the preliminary round Belgium was almost upset by Romania in the last day but won thanks to a jumper by Ann Wauters in the last seconds. On day two of the qualifying round came another close game but this time Belgium was behind and a lethal turnover in the closing seconds gave Latvia the win. In the fight for the first spot in their group against the Czech Republic they once again failed to win a close game. With 3:21 to go Belgium went up 68-64, but until the very last second didn’t add a single point. The Czechs, meanwhile, reeled off an 8-0 run and used three missed shots and one turnover by Belgium in the closing minutes. In the last play, with Belgium down by four and 15 seconds to play, it seemed as their point guard, Kathy Wambe, was unaware of the difference and wasted precious seconds that might have made a difference. Towards the final round Belgium will have to find a way to win close games against the top teams as well.
Germany Outrebound Their Points – When you read a boxscore one sign that a team wasn't at their best is their points/rebounds ratio. The closer the rebounds to the points the bigger the chances that team played poorly. Well, Germany-Latvia was a meaningless game for both sides, and Germany knew they’d go home anyhow, but they still managed a surprising statistic. The German team scored 47 points and pulled down 48 rebounds. 20 of them were second and third chances on offense, which still didn’t help them gather enough points.