By Paul Nilsen
|Watch the Group B clash between Nadezhda Orenburg and Famila Schio live on FIBA Europe TV Wednesday 14:00 CET|
The feel good factor continues to thrive at Famila Schio, but shooting ace Danielle Mc Cray is now bracing herself for one of the toughest challenges so far, when the team steps out against Nadezhda in Orenburg on Wednesday evening.
Whilst Schio are sat proudly at the top of Group B with a 6-1 record, Mc Cray is adamant that a combination of factors will make the match-up with Nadezhda a particularly tricky one.
"Every game is a tough night in our Group" she insisted.
"We all know Nadezhda will be a tough match for us and especially with them coming off of a loss, and also trying to get revenge from our first meeting.
"Also we aren't all healthy as a whole team, but we will come to fight, just like we do in every game."
Having made a summer switch from fellow Group B rivals Good Angels Kosice, it's been a smooth transition for Mc Cray who is particularly impressed with the way her new team-mates have pulled together to still get results, especially when challenges have come their way.
She said, "This season has been a great start for us since our team chemistry and hard work is incredible.
"Our record tells you a lot about who we are as people and as a team due to the fact that we have been without Laura Macchi who was sick for some games.
"Our team has filled that huge role that she brings to the team.
"We play for each other as a team because at the end of the day, we all just want to win."
In addition to playing without Macchi during the last month whilst she recovers from a kidney infection, head coach Maurizio Lasi also had to do without influential playmaker Giorgia Sottana after the Italian national team guard sustained a worrying shoulder injury which is likely to keep her out for several more weeks. Even Mc Cray was rested at the weekend in the Italian league along with Elodie Godin as a precaution.
In addition to the team coming together to fill the void left by injuries and sickness, the play-caller has been able to utilise one of the in-form players in the competition in the shape of center Jantel Lavender who has been simply immense - a fact not lost on Mc Cray.
"Playing with Jantel has been really fun" said the shooting guard.
"When you have a ‘big' that can dominate inside and out, it opens up the floor for everyone else on the team.
"She has really found her rhythm and has been doing everything she can to help this team win.
"We have both been focused on taking this team far and having fun whilst doing it"
|Jantel Lavender is the one Famila Schio player that Nadezhda will have to take care of the most|
Form Guide: Nadezhda have a 4-3 record after last week's loss on the road at Good Angels Kosice leaving them inthird place, although Fenerbahce have played one game less. Their first defeat of the season came against Schio when they were beaten 72-64. Domestically, they have suffered successive 20 point blowouts at Dynamo Moscow and against UMMC Ekaterinburg. Meanwhile Schio dropped only one EuroLeague Women game this season, a road loss against Good Angels Kosice. In the Italian League, Schio are locked at the top with an 8-1 record with Gesam Gas Lucca.
The Hot Hands: Jantel Lavender has top scored for Schio during the last four games, and is now searching for a fourth successive double-double. She is averaging 15.9 points and 7.4 rebounds this season. Whilst Dewanna Bonner is averaging a season double-double for Nadezhda, she had an off night last time out, and in fact, the big problem for the home side is that in the last week or two, nobody has had the hot-hand.
‘X Factors': Schio are likely to be without their influential point guard Sottana and that should present a real opportunity for Nadezhda. The Russians take fewer steals than any other team in the tournament and haven't been able to show the kind of swarming ball-pressure that could make teams crack. They may need to step up their defence in this one. They key for Nadezhda will be competing down low since the Schio frontcourt is one of the most clinical around. Making some three-pointers would also help, because they are likely to be given plenty of looks outside by the visitors. A return to action for wing Liudmila Sapova would be a welcome boost for the hosts.