Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various websites and publications across Europe.
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The second week of EuroLeague Women was one which had the element of surprise woven intricately through it as the players and teams served up some memorable moments.
BITTER SWEET FOR HOT-SHOT DE MONDT
|Anke De Mondt's shot carried Wisla Can-Pack to overtime, but proved to be in vain|
There's no other place to start than THAT shot by Anke De Mondt which helped Wisla Can-Pack force overtime against Uni Gyor. Right in that moment, it seemed inevitable the home court favourites would go on to take the win, the near half-court shot by the Belgian having handed the depleted hosts the momentum after an astonishing fight-back.
But, I think Gyor picking up a truly fabulous road win encapsulated everything that we love on a weekly basis from the EuroLeague Women. Namely those teams who may not have huge expectations, are capable of taking advantage of the so-called ‘bigger clubs' if they show any signs of weakness whatsoever -in the case of Wisla, simply being short-handed and other players suffering from a bout of illness.
Few could have predicted Uni Gyor sitting pretty 2-0 and Wisla Can-Pack sweating (albeit only a little at this stage) with a 0-2 record.
I probably wasn't the only one who, when De Mondt launched that shot and it dropped, thought immediately of former EuroLeague Women champion Belinda Snell who nailed a similar although slightly more of a miracle shot for Australia against France at the Olympic Games earlier this summer.
In both cases, it was a real shame for the players involved they weren't game-winning shots because every time they, or more likely, others talk about it, they will get that bitter-sweet sensation.
MIXED FORTUNES FOR NEWCOMERS
You have to tip your hat in absolute admiration for Zagreb since like most people, I thought were going to be spectacularly pulverised at UMMC Ekaterinburg. But, as part of the surprise package of week two, they produced that quite wonderful display in Russia to push the favourites down to the wire.
Without being patronising to a team that lost a game, you will probably struggle to find a more creditable and gutsy performance in the competition this season. It should give Novi Zagreb a great lift and was a poke in the eye to those who believed they may not be competitive.
Oh and welcome back Diana Taurasi with 25 points (the highest so far in the competition), eight rebounds and seven assists. This was actually somewhere around par for her on any first night of EuroLeague Women when she traditionally likes to announce her arrival in style - even if the game was uncomfortably close for Ekat. At least they did dish up 25 assists which will hearten Olaf Lange a little. There is little surprise that this performance by Taurasi won her Week 2 MVP honours.
As for Tarsus, you can have all the veteran experience in the world, but if you don't make shots, the uphill struggle at this elite level becomes a mountain. They were eye-wateringly poor in defeat this week. Melisa Can is proving to be a one-woman fire fighter right now, bucking the Tarsus trend with a magnificent 14 of 19shooting percentage during the first two games, but even ‘Red Adair' couldn't have helped her extinguish a red-hot Rivas Ecopolis.
Granted, it's still early days, but one of the notable features so far of Istanbul giants Fenerbahce and Galatasaray has been the defence. We probably far too often get consumed by the offensive skills of two clubs littered with star names, but it may just be a hard-nosed defensive approach which will be the bedrock of success for each.
Fenerbahce duo Angel McCoughtry and Anastasiya Verameyenka combined for seven blocked shots which is terrific, whilst Galatasaray just did a great job on defence to grind out a precious win against ZVVZ USK Prague after a nightmare start. And, what a great job Isil Alben continues to do to by the way.
BOJOVIC AND JOHNSON SHINE
|Miljana Bojovic is getting better with almost every game she plays for Good Angels Kosice|
players. Shenise Johnson showed just what a star and real force she can be for Sopron this year in so many areas after leading the team (albeit in defeat) in points, rebounds, assists and steals. On that basis, I can't wait to see more of her during this rookie season.
As for Miljana Bojovic, what a player she continues to develop into for Good Angels Kosice. I hope I don't put a curse on her for next week, but she is now (so far at least) reducing the turnovers, showing even greater composure and crucially, having a more decisive impact with each and every game. A career high 12 assists is outstanding and she is evidence of a player who may not be all-action as in the case of Johnson, but continues to master her trade as a dedicated playmaker with real aplomb.
RIVAS YOUNG GUN POSES QUESTION
When Rivas Ecopolis took their EuroLeague Women bow with a rout of Tarsus, they handed a debut in the competition to 15 year old Lucía Togores who celebrates her 16th Birthday over the weekend. Having beaten the Rivas club record of Marina Lizarazu who played when she was 16 years old and three days, it had everyone scratching around in the history books.
And, it would appear that the answer to the youngest player to have stepped out in the competition seems to be Diana Kmezic who was just 14 years and 10 months old when she played for Szolnok at Vojvodina Nis-Gas during January 2005.
Anyway, ‘Feliz Cumpleanos' to Lucia, and congratulations to all of the teams and players who made the second week so very memorable.