|04 February 2014|
|EuroLeague Women Game of the Week: Nadezhda vs. Fenerbahce. Watch LIVE on livebasketball.tv|
Nadezhda Orenburg head coach George Dikeoulakos is relishing his rejuvenated team being put to the ultimate test when his former club and the last unbeaten side in EuroLeague Women arrive.
Having masterminded a fabulous five straight wins in Group B and reaching the Russian Cup Final Four over the weekend, Fenerbahce will act as a realistic barometer of just how far Nadezhda might be able to go this season.
"The most important thing in the game will be to control the rhythm, since Fenerbahce does not forgive mistakes such as losing that rhythm or losing your aggressiveness," stated Dikeoulakos.
"Several times within a game they can create differences which after a while, are impossible to cover.
"There will also be many other simple details which may play a big role against a team who is a favourite to make the final and maybe even win the EuroLeague Women title.
"It is therefore necessary for us to do so many things more than just well whenever we are on the court."
The Greek national team boss spent some of the happiest times of his career in Istanbul and loves any kind of a re-match.
"Every time I play against Fenerbahce, I have some strange but positive feelings," he said with a smile.
|"Every time I play against Fenerbahce, I have some strange but positive feelings" - George Dikeoulakos |
"I have made many friends there and the Turkish fans still express to me their love and appreciation with messages.
"I also really love to play against a team with which I have so many good relationships, including the players, coaching staff, fans and management.
"It feels like I am I having a birthday party when everybody is there!"
Dikeoulakos has certainly engineered a remarkable turnaround in Orenburg having answered an SOS call. The club lost the first four games of the season and was teetering on the brink of having their Final Eight dreams shattered before winter had arrived.
"My first priority was to make this team look like a team, based on discipline and putting rules into our game, rules on offence and in defence, rules with rules inside the court and outside the court," explained Dikeoulakos.
"But actually, the biggest step came from the players, who put their egos underneath the priorities of the team. That was actually the base where we could build the kind of team philosophy that I wanted.
"However, I remember there were games when we won by 28 points and everybody was so happy except me, because I didn't believe that we had done everything as we should."
He added, "There is always big space for improvement and we must always work for that, because we can't forget the real serious games which truly depend on the success of our club are still lying in front of us."
One of the key decisions made was to pitch Glory Johnson into EuroLeague Women action - although the coach was quick to play down the change.
He insisted, "Glory has given many things to our game, but we also lost some other things by changing her for Temeka Johnson.
"We had already started playing very well with Temeka inside when a small injury forced me to take the decision of changing her, I think the progress was a matter of the team generally and not of one or two players.
"Both of them are amazing people and players, so I'm very happy that I have both of them for the Russian Premier League."
|Cappie Pondexter of Fenerbahce is just five steals shy of 150 in EuroLeague Women|
Form Guide: Nadezhda are second in Group B with a 5-4 record. They sit second in the Russian League with 11 wins and three losses. Fenerbahce are perfect with an 8-0 record and domestically, they are 16-2 in the TKBL and sit in second spot. They have already won the President's Cup, but lost in the Turkish Cup Final. Fenerbahce won the first meeting between the two teams 71-69 in a thrilling encounter.
The Hot Hands: Dewanna Bonner leads Nadezhda with 18.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Glory Johnson has impressed with an average of 15 points and 8.8 boards each time she steps out, whilst Natalia Zhedik is the best downtown shooter in EuroLeague Women. Angel McCoughtry is excelling for Fenerbahce with 15.8 points from 56% floor-shooting and has grabbed 3.9 steals per game, including a competition high tally of eight in her last outing. Center Isabelle Yacoubou is also playing well in the paint, whilst Cappie Pondexter is beginning to hit her stride shooting wise to compliment her 5.1 assists per game.
‘X Factors' & Match Ups: There could be a great story around Fenerbahce center Anastasiya Verameyenka getting the one block she needs on her former home-court to become only the fourth player in EuroLeague Women history to reach 150 blocks. She may have to go up against Natalia Anoikina and Glory Johnson which will be interesting. Depending on strategies, McCoughtry potentially going up against the prolific and productive Dewanna Bonner on the wing should be superb. Fenerbahce need to keep Nadezhda off the offensive boards and the hosts need to deal with the defensive ball pressure.
Did you know? Cappie Pondexter needs five more steals to reach 150 landmark, whilst Isabelle Yacoubou averages only 4.8 rebounds at home, but loves hitting the glass on the road where she harvests an eye-catching 10.3 boards per game.