Whilst some teams could justifiably claim to already have one foot in the last eight of the EuroCup Women, there are also some beautifully poised Eighth-Final second-leg games to savour this week.
The story of the first leg was very much the dominance of the four French sides who all claimed important road wins, but Tarbes and Hainaut Basket in particular have little room to relax with plenty of work still to do.
|Angelica Robinson led Tarbes in the first leg with 17 points and nine rebounds|
Tarbes sneaked a 55-54 win at Dynamo Moscow, but will know that their opponents are more than capable of claiming a victory in France, even if they lost at Basket Landes during the Regular Season. The Russian side showed their quality by routing EuroLeague Women side Nadezhda 88-68 last weekend to fire a warning to Tarbes head coach Cyril Sicsic and his team. The French side will have their work cut out successfully controlling Kristi Toliver in consecutive games, and they could be dead in the water if they give up as many as 17 offensive rebounds as they did during the first meeting.
After emerging from Minsk with a thrilling 60-58 success, there is still much to do before Hainaut Basket can even think about potentially celebrating a place in the last eight. Especially since their domestic form must now be playing on their minds after they were trashed 78-58 at Basket Landes over the weekend which means they still prop up the table. Both teams struggled to get anything going from three-point range in the first leg, and whilst that is no surprise for Horizont, this could be the X-Factor for Hainaut, if Amanda Houts can find the hot-hand from downtown.
BLMA will be strong favourites to progress after securing a useful 69-62 road win in the first leg, although if it hadn't been for a sloppy finish and outstanding work from Courtney Paris under the hoop for Adana Botas, they could have been in an even more advantageous position. Still, they have plenty of offensive options available to get the job done and will know that even if Paris lights it up again, the key will be not allowing any decisive cameos from her team-mates. If BLMA look after the ball better and cut out the errors from the first meeting, they will be expected to punch their ticket.
This all-Turkish affair is delicately poised after a first leg which Kayseri won 91-87. It was perhaps inevitable that, having destroyed Mersin just days earlier on the same floor in domestic action, the visitors would make the necessary defensive adjustments to produce an improved display - and so it proved. The second leg will witness two players who have the hot hand going head-to-head again. Evanthia Maltsi is the second highest leading scorer in EuroCup Women with 23.2 points per game for Kayseri, whilst Shavonte Zeallous followed up 24 points in the first leg with 34 points for Mersin in the Turkish League at the weekend. If either of these hot-shots blow cold for their respective teams, it could spell trouble in a tie which really could go either way.
There's little doubt that MBK Ruzomberok will be feeling like they let Dynamo-GUVD off the hook a little during their first-leg meeting which the Russian side edged 60-57. The visitors still sneaked a victory, despite committing an eye-watering 27 turnovers after the hosts came up with 20 steals. Stefan Svitek is experienced enough to know his team will somehow have to maintain that kind of ball pressure to have a chance of making it through and can draw confidence from having won their last Regular Season game on the road at Antakya. Much will depend on an improved display from playmaker Yvonne Turner for Dynamo-GUVD.
|Caroline Aubert is a true floor general for Nantes, averaging 4.9 assists per game|
Perhaps the one team closest to the last eight are Nantes Reze, after they breezed to a 77-59 victory in Grodno to give Olimpia an absolute mountain to climb. They will be ruing losing their concentration in the final quarter when they were outscored 23-9 and consequently allowed the tie to ebb away from them. The scale of the task is not only reflected in the margin the visitors need to make up and overturn, but also because they have only ever won once on the road previously in the competition, and the hosts head into the contest buoyed by a fine 68-57 success in the French League against EuroLeague Women club Arras.
It could be all about mentality for Antakya when they step out in Vologda with a commanding 18-point advantage courtesy of their superb 79-61 first-leg victory when they jumped out on their opponents and never looked back. Chevakata were totally outplayed in the paint, and any relatively slim chances they still have of reaching the Quarter-Finals would have already evaporated, had they not shot the ball well from long-range - converting 14 triples from 28 attempts. Glory Johnson has been sensational for Chevakata, but she had a rare off night last week, so the home team will be hoping she is back on song and they can get off to a good start to put some early pressure on the visitors.
There's little doubt that VS Prague must produce the biggest shock of the EuroCup Women season so far by winning in Kursk if they want to reach the Quarter-Finals. And, having only lost the first leg 66-63, they can take heart and pride that they still at least have a shot at causing an epic upset. But, head coach Petr Treml must be pulling his hair out at his team's continual failure to look after the ball - something which has plagued them all season. They threw the ball away 22 times in the first leg to underline why they are the most turnover-prone team in the tournament, and will know that they can't afford to give up fast-break points against a strong unit like Dynamo Kursk. The holders will of course be expecting to progress, and especially after they bemoaned some far from perfect preparation ahead of the first-leg game which will be rectified this time around.