|Crystal Langhorne is probably the best qualified person to talk about the Rivas - Ekaterinburg clash|
Rivas Ecopolis vs UMMC Ekaterinburg Preview
By Paul Nilsen
Crystal Langhorne has warned her team-mates from earlier in the season to beware of another of her former clubs when UMMC Ekaterinburg face Rivas Ecopolis in Madrid tonight.
Currently with Good Angels Kosice, the American played for UMMC Ekaterinburg against Rivas earlier this season before eventually moving aside to make way for the returning Candace Parker.
Even if Ekat do hold a 1-0 lead having won 63-58 in Russia after the first game, Langhorne doesn't feel Ekat should take anything for granted.
"Ekat is of course the favourite in this play-off series"
"Especially with the talent they have on their roster and of course because they won the first game."
She added, "I think it will still be a good second game in Madrid because Rivas have continued to get better right through out the season."
Both teams certainly know each other well having matched up in Group B of the Qualifying Round as well as the first game in this play-off series.Consequently there is of course a familiar feel about this fourth meeting of the campaign.
After three losses, Rivas are hoping they can secure the back to back successes required to reach the last eight of the tournament although it is going to be tough against the Russian giants who remain front-runners to finish top of the podium.
While both sets of fans have already been able to celebrate silverware having won their respective Cup competitions this season, being knocked out of EuroLeague Women is always a low point for any team.
Rivas will be rueing a golden opportunity missed in the first game when with a little more luck, they might have grabbed a shock 1-0 series lead. Instead, they head into this game fighting for their lives in what is only their second season in the tournament as they try to book a third ticket of the campaign to Russia.
Qualifying Round - UMMC Ekaterinburg finished second in Group B of the Qualifying Round with 8 wins and 2 losses while Rivas Ecopolis finished third in the same group with a 5-5 record.
Previous Match Ups - The last time Ekat were in Madrid during the Qualifying Round almost two months ago, they cruised to a 22 point win. Clearly Rivas are a very different team now and that was evident when the Spanish club only lost by five points in that first play-off game.
Current Form - Aside from the defeat on Tuesday in Russia, Rivas had won four of their previous six games in EuroLeague Women and domestically they have lost three of their last six games either side of winning the Copa De La Reina. This has seen then slip to fourth place in Liga Femenina. UMMC Ekaterinburg meanwhile have lost twice in EuroLeague Women to Fenerbahce and recently lifted the Russian Cup while remaining unbeaten in the domestic league.
The Hot Hands - After a sluggish start to her career in the Spanish capital, Copa De La Reina MVP DeWanna Bonner has come alive in the last month or two and that has coincided with success for Rivas and a notable upturn in their fortunes. While Bonner can still get even better in terms of her percentages, she did just miss out on a double-double in the first game by one rebound.
For Ekat, Sandrine Gruda has been the hot hand pretty much all season long. The French center was also the best player in the first game when she racked up 21 points and 8 boards.
X Factors - Time will tell just how much winning the Russian Cup took out of Ekat before the first game and whether fatigue was truly a factor. Certainly Rivas played with more energy and just didn't have the little bit of quality to make the killer shots down the stretch.
Equally important is the defence of Rivas which they mixed up to really great effect. From zone to personal defence, they varied their approach and it almost proved successful. This time Vetra is likely to have prepared his team to make the necessary adjustments to make more comfortable adjustments offensively.
Rivas will have to do the fundamentals well such as looking after the ball and competing on the glass. Knocking the visitors out of their offensive stride and keeping a lockdown on Gruda in particular might prove more difficult.
Most importantly of all, without shooting the ball well from outside and making a few from downtown, it's going to be tough for the hosts to prevail.
Did You Know? - Cappie Pondexter was the only player to make a three-pointer during the last game earlier in the week. The teams were a combined 1 of 20 from outside!