CSKA Volgaburmash survived a major scare against French outfit US Valenciennes in the eighth-final play-offs opener for both sides on Tuesday.
Champions two years ago and beaten finalists in 2006, Volgaburmash trailed late in the third quarter but eventually pulled away over the final 10 minutes for an 85-75 victory in Russia.
Ann Wauters, the Belgian international who once played for USVO, had 22 points and seven rebounds against her former team while American forward Demya Walker scored 20 and French point guard Edwige Lawson added 18.
USVO also played in the Final Four last season but have not been the same force in 2006-07 following the departures of several key players.
They entered the contest with just three wins from 10 group games.
But they started out well, leading by as many as eight points in the first quarter and then, after CSKA battled back, refused to go away.
|Demya Walker scored 20 for CSKA.|
Laurent Buffard's team trailed 48-44 at half-time after a three-ball from
Russian international Olga Arteshina, but then tied the game at 53-53 three minutes into the second half on a three-point play from FIBA Europe's Young Women Player of the Year, Sandrine Gruda.
Kristi Harrower then buried a jump shot to put the French club on top by two.
The lead then changed hands several times, but when Walker's jumper fell through the rim with 1:22 remaining to make it 67-65 for CSKA, the Russian team had the lead for good.
The spurt that finished USVO for good started just over two minutes into the final period when Arteshina passed to Lawson behind the arc and the playmaker drilled the three to take her points haul to 18 points.
Maria Stepanova, who this week just was voted the FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year for the second straight season, followed with a jumper and Wauters then struck with 5:57 remaining to make it 78-67 in favour of the Russians.
Buffard's side got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Despite the win, CSKA head coach Igor Grudin was not pleased with his team.
"I have nothing to say," he said.
"I feel ashamed for my team. We played very badly."
Lawson agreed with her coach's assessment.
"Today we played only 70 percent of our abilities," the floor general said.
Stepanova had 10 rebounds but just six points and she also turned the ball over four times.
Vedrana Grgin Fonseca paced USVO with 16 points.
Slobodanka Tuvic had 15 points and both Harrower, a FIBA world champion with Australia last year, and Gruda weighed in with 13 points.
The two sides will meet again on February 2 at Valenciennes
"We are satisfied with the way we played," Buffard said.
"And we will be stronger at home."