| ||Jeff Taylor has been covering European basketball since 1997, when he first worked on the television program SLAM. He has been a basketball writer and broadcaster since that time, traveling the continent and covering the game in depth for FIBA Europe since its launch in 2003. |
There is much food for thought after a pivotal Wednesday night in the EuroLeague Women.
Cras Basket Taranto have stopped the rot for Italy, becoming the first team in nine years in the country to earn a trip to the Quarter-Finals following an 83-49 rout of ZVVZ USK Prague.
The turning point in this series came immediately after Roberto Ricchini's Taranto crashed to a heavy Game 1 defeat at home.
Leading 39-35 at half-time, Taranto lost 73-56.
The Italians didn't hang their heads.
What was it Ricchini said after he and his team, like a prize fighter, had been knocked down but not out after the second-half mauling?
|Cras Basket Taranto head hoach Roberto Ricchini had declared "we only lost a battle, not the war" after his team lost the first game of the series|
In one of the best post-game comments of this season's EuroLeague Women, the coach declared: "We only lost the battle, not the war.
"I have already looked my players in their eyes.
"I feel the revenge in Prague."
Playing with pride and determination, Taranto rebounded with a 75-73 win at Prague.
It didn't help that the Czech team, playing all season without injured Greece superstar Evina Maltsi, lost Czech international Eva Viteckova to a fractured finger after she'd played just 11 minutes in Game Two.
Another thought from Wednesday night was the sub-par game offensively by Candice Dupree of Good Angels Kosice.
You didn't have to watch that game to know what happened, with the USA international held to just two points on one of six shooting from the floor.
When Bourges make up their minds to play defense, they are as tough and physical as any team in women's basketball.
Dupree also had five turnovers.
What's also notable, however, is that Dupree, in the 79-68 Game 3 defeat, still had 14 rebounds and six assists.
In other words, she may not score but always helps the team in other ways.
As for Bourges, they're a very difficult team to beat when Greece's Stella Kaltsidou is in her rhythm.
She tore apart Kosice, scoring a game-high 23 points while making all three of her shots from long range.
The other Bourges player that continues to get the job done for coach Pierre Vincent is Emmeline Ndongue.
The France international had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Lithuania's Marina Solopova, meanwhile, is a player to watch.
|Stella Kaltsidou led Bourges to the quarter-finals, winning the Player of Round 3 title for herself in the process |
Having joined Kosice after a great Qualifying Round with VICI Aistes, she didn't disappoint.
For Good Angels, Solopova scored 14, 10 and 13 points in the three games against Bourges.
She made seven of 14 shots from long range.
Write her name down now as a player to watch this summer in Poland because Lithuania's national team has a rising star that turns 21 on February 13.
What catches the eye in the 86-63 victory for Ros Casares over MKB Euroleasing Sopron was the number of shots Ros Casares took compared to the visitors from Hungary.
Ros put up 67 shots from the floor compared to 50 for Sopron.
This is down to rebounds and defense.
Of Ros' 41 boards, 20 came on the offensive glass.
By comparison, Sopron had just 30 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end.
Ros also forced Sopron to turn the ball over 18 times.
And the Spaniards did this without one of their best defensive players, Laia Palau, who missed a second straight game with a groin injury.
If Ndongue is underrated for Bourges, so is Cindy Lima for Ros.
Against Sopron, Lima had 10 points and nine rebounds, seven of them on the offensive boards.
Last but not least, there was Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje bouncing back to beat Beretta-Famila Schio in Russia, 69-63.
Sparta&K have a lot of things going for them.
While missing some players that have been a part of their four-year championship run like Diana Taurasi and Lauren Jackson, they still have Sue Bird, the best point guard in the world.
In all four title wins for Sparta&K, she has run the show.
Sparta&K also have Taj McWilliams.
Remember the decision to part ways with Jackson after she got hurt in a December game that ruled her out for a few months?
Sparta&K brought in 40-year-old McWilliams.
She had her best performance since joining Sparta&K with 14 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks against Schio.
Janel McCarville didn't win with Schio, but like Dupree for Kosice (one of McCarville's old teams), she showed her class with 16 points and 14 boards against Sparta&K - the team she played for last year.
Now comes the most intriguing of all the Quarter-Finals between Sparta&K and Fenerbahce.
Can Sparta&K spring the upset?
In the others, Ros will face Bourges, Cras Basket Taranto will square off against UMMC Ekaterinburg and Halcon Avenida will meet Wisla Can-Pack Krakow.