|24 February 2014|
The EuroLeague Women regular season concludes this week and defending champions UMMC Ekaterinburg are unexpectedly trying to avoid an unthinkable third loss in four games.
The 2013 winners will once again host the Final Eight, meaning no play-off commitments and therefore signing off in front of their own fans against Beretta Famila Schio, until they return for the season finale during early April when they will try to defend their coveted title.
But, having lost to Tango Bourges and Kayseri Kaski spor either side of a home win against Good Angles Kosice, it hasn't all been plain sailing for Olaf Lange and his star-laden roster.
"We can't commit so many of the same errors which we had during the game in Kayseri," confessed center Ewelina Kobryn who recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds in the reverse fixture with Schio.
"Of course we were disappointed after the Kayseri game because we committed far too many mistakes in defence and during these next games, we will make sure we do not repeat them.
|"This is the last game and it will not be easy, but we want to win and we'll do our best" - Raffaella Masciadri|
"Schio can certainly be expected to play an ambitious game against us - an approach which they showed in the first game."
She added, "Every game and every practice prepares us for the Final Eight and nothing has changed comparing us to last season."
Interestingly, Schio are also out to avoid a third loss in four games after being beaten last time out in a thrilling, but heart-breaking overtime game at Good Angels Kosice.
"We are very disappointed about our loss in Kosice," confirmed Raffaella Masciadri.
"We were ahead for all the game and during the last piece of action, we made the foul on a big three-point shot.
"Then during overtime, I don't think we had sufficient energy to win the game.
"The loss has complicated our ranking and especially with Kayseri also beating UMMC.
"But, this is the last game and it will not be easy, but we want to win and we'll do our best - just like the first game in Schio."
Form Guide: UMMC have already been confirmed as Group A winners and have a 7-2 record. They are also leading the Russian Premier League with 16 wins from 17 games and have both the Russian Cup and also the FIBA Europe SuperCup in the cabinet. Schio are third in the group, albeit locked with three other rivals on a 5-4 record. They are currently joint-top of the Italian League with a 17 wins from 18 outings and have won the Italian Cup. The first meeting finished with UMMC prevailing 73-66 in a hard-fought match-up.
|Diana Taurasi is a strong candidate for the sharpest shooter in Europe right now|
The Hot Hands: Diana Taurasi is moving ominously through the gears right now and despite the loss in Kayseri, she was outstanding with 25 points. Then, she turned up the heat even further over the weekend in the Russian League where she made a staggering 10 triples to hand her team a crushing win against Nadezhda Orenburg. Taurasi is also dishing up a terrific 6.6 assists per game to show her veteran combo skills. Candace Parker has generally been the most consistent performer all season and continued the kind of performances which led to her being crowned MVP last year. She is averaging a near season double-double of 14.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Elodie Godin has been the main threat for Schio this year and recently won MVP at the Italian Cup Final for her efforts. She is averaging 12.4 points and 9.8 boards per game, whilst the experienced Laura Macchi has had one of her most productive regular seasons in a few years.
‘X Factors' & Match Ups: Schio will know that the biggest ‘X-factor' they must contend with is dealing with the backlash after a proud champion team were left stung in Kayseri. Ekat also have a brilliant home record and big support, so it will be difficult. Guarding and trying to contain the hot-hand of Taurasi will be important, as will trying to cope with the relentless Parker, who will continue rolling to the hoop and finishing with considerable class. If Schio have any chance, they must keep Ekat off the glass and limit second-chance opportunities. Ekat have enough quality that they really don't need to be gifted any cheap scores. Schio also need to be aggressive on offence and try to get to the line where they generally punish their opponents.
Did you know? Elodie Godin needs six more rebonds to pass the 1,000 mark in the competition, with only 28 players having previously accomplished the feat. UMMC are gunning for their sixth successive EuroLeague Women win against Italian opposition and are the best team in the competition at assists, points scored, two-point shooting and three-point shooting. Schio are the best free-throw shooting team in the competition.