By Paul Nilsen
Defending champions Perfumerias Avenida travel to Istanbul with head coach Lucas Mondelo singing the praises of Fenerbahce, the only club yet to taste defeat this season.
The Spanish play-caller who led his team to the top of the EuroLeague Women podium last year in Ekaterinburg is a big admirer of what the Turkish club has done so far this season and not surprisingly, is looking to learn from a 77-69 loss earlier in the season.
"Fenerbahce are playing at a high level and taking advantage of their great roster," explained Mondelo.
"They are not just a collection of names but a balanced team with an inside-outside game.
"Together with Ekaterinburg, Ros Casares, Wisla Can-Pack and Galatasaray Medical Park they have the roster and budget which makes them one of the big favorites to win EuroLeague Women.
"We're going to Istanbul to win since we are professionals and we have ambition, with the fact they are undefeated providing an addiitonal motivation.
"The factors in the game for us will be to control their frontcourt so they get no second chance points. We must have good shot selection so they run us as little as possible and we must watch out for Penny Taylor in particular"
"We learned from the first game that we should have less anxiety in attack and a more careful balance," continued Mondelo.
"We were obsessed to play outside alone and fast against the zone, we were 4-27 shooting the three and therefore they could run and it evened the match.
"We should be back and highly concentrated on offense, playing without the ball will be very important."
Overall, Mondelo is more than satisfied with the way his team has performed so far this season.
"We are happy and content after working very hard. After winning the EuroLeague Women last year ahead of the big teams and with a reduced budget, we now have many inexperienced players in the competition and many Spanish players," the defending champions coach explains
"But the results have still been very good. We won the European Super Cup, the Spanish Super Cup, we are ranked as top seeds in the top eight of the EuroLeague Women.
"Besides playing good basketball, we are also defending our title as champions with real pride - we have no pressure but we still have lots of dreams and ambition."
Meanwhile, Fenerbahce head coach George Dikeoulakos is looking forward to pitting his wits against Mondelo, having gained the upper hand in their first meeting this season.
"There are not so many things that will be different from the previous game. The teams haven't change their style so much," Dikeoulakos said.
|Dewanna Bonner has proven to be a phenomenal new addition for EuroLeague Women reigning champions Perfumerias Avenida, averaging 20 points and 9.4 rebounds per game|
"We must be very aggressive in our defense and at the same time, very smart in our offense because Salamanca is a team that always punishes the crazy shots and non-control offenses with a big number of fast breaks.
"Of course it will be a chess game in terms of tactics from each respective coach and this will be enjoyable for both of us."
SEASON SO FAR
• Fenerbahce has been absolutely flawless with 11 wins from 11 games and not surprisingly, they sit proudly at the top of the standings. In the Turkish league they do have one defeat to their name but aside from that early season loss, it's a similar story of success so far. They're leaders and have beaten Galatasaray Medical Park in the all-important Istanbul derby game.
• As for the reigning champions, it's been either all hot or cold in the EuroLeague Women this season which has witnessed three very distinctive streaks for the Salamanca club. They currently sit in second place in Group B with an 8-3 record having won their first five games of the season before then losing three in a row and, more recently, bouncing back to win their last three games. In the Spanish Liga Femenina they are in second place with a 14-2 record behind leaders and arch-rivals Ros Casares.
THE HOT HANDS
• It's difficult to identify who has the hot hand for a team like Fenerbahce because they are so well balanced and so deep that on any given night, a number of players is liable to post an MVP or influential performance.
Angel McCoughtry has been outstanding since the season tipped off, as evidenced by her superb field goal percentage of 62.8% which is the second best in the competition. Also second in a statistical chart is point guard Birsel Vardarli although unusually it isn't for her trademark assists but instead, her three-point shooting accuracy. While not exactly high volume, it's been hugely effective due to her intelligent decision making.
Meanwhile the powerful and talented Ivana Matovic recently registered three successive scores of more than twenty points although she has been slightly less productive in the last couple of games.
• Dewanna Bonner has been hot pretty much all season long for Perfumerias Avenida. In fact, she has never failed to record a double-digit score and at 20 points per game, is the second highest scorer in the competition.What has often not been highlighted enough is that she is also doing the dirty work on the glass also since she is the fourth best rebounder in EuroLeague Women with 9.4 per game which almost gives her an outstanding season double-double.
Marta Fernandez has been the form player recently and while she was relatively quiet from a points perspective last time out in the success against Nadezhda, she still managed to find six assists having registered double digits in scoring during the previous three games.
As explained by both coaches, this will be a hard fought game which could depend on tempo with the irony that both teams are actually capable of running and really pushing the ball down the floor in transition - even if neither wants to allow the other to do this successfully. Much is therefore likely to depend upon smart shot selection and who controls the boards. Perhaps the slightly deeper frontcourt of Fener could eventually wear the visitors down a little but if Avenida can match them on the glass, it could be very interesting.
It will be fascinating to see who can slow down Birsel Vardarli and how Perfumerias Avenida match-up with the Fenerbahce point guard since she is the player who makes the Turkish team tick at key moments. There will be a big responsibility on the likes of veteran Laura Antoja and Marta Xargay while Marta Fernandez is also likely to have an input into this match-up since she could be an ideal player to jam and stop the ball from a defensive standpoint. She may also handle the ball quite a lot offensively too so will have to be wary of the quickness of Vardarli.