|06 November 2012|
By Paul Nilsen
CCC Polkowice head coach Jacek Winnicki is expecting his players to be given a stern test by Galatasaray when they host the Turkish club in EuroLeague Women Group C, even if the visitors will again be under-strength.
It's been a bitter-sweet ride so far for the play-caller, having both presided over a home loss on opening night, and a fabulous road win at Perfumerias Avenida last week.
"We lost the first game at home against USO Mondeville in overtime and so going to Salamanca, we knew that this game was very important for us to keep our chance of getting out of the group" explained a relieved Winnicki.
Claiming back-to-back wins will be difficult, even with his opponents easing their way into the new season and trying to nurse some of their biggest hitters back to health. It's perhaps a dimension which contributed to a surprise 70-64 home loss to Kayseri Kaski spor for Galatasaray in the Turkish league at the weekend.
Despite this, the play-caller is adamant the visitors will prove to be a real handful and ask his team some searching questions.
"They have some injury problems right now, but we still expect a very tough game on Wednesday" insisted Winnicki.
"We really have to stop their transition game and we have to stop their inside game too, because they play a lot under the basket for Ann Wauters and Sancho Lyttle.
"We are trying to do our best in every single game we play since we are in a very tough group.
"But, our goal is to repeat the result from last season, and qualify for the next round."
Coach Winnicki isn't the only one who has Wauters and Lyttle right in the centre of the CCC Polkowice radar. They have caught the eye of Australian small forward Belinda Snell, a player who won the title with Lyttle in Salamanca in 2011 and is back in the tournament after skipping last season to play in her homeland.
"It's going to be a big challenge for CCC Polkowice playing against two reigning EuroLeague champions in Ann Wauters and Sancho Lyttle" said Snell.
"Boxing out and rebounding for us is going to be crucial.
"We were very disappointed with our EuroLeague Women opener and losing in overtime against Mondeville, but extremely happy that we were able to get that win in Salamanca.
"It's great to be back competing in the competition and it was nice going back to Salamanca last week since I have many good memories from my time there!
"I was very glad we were able to get the win against them - it was very important after losing our first game."
There is of course little doubt that Galatasaray are playing short-handed, having done without the services of Lindsay Whalen, Nevirye Yilmaz, Alba Torrens and Sylvia Fowles.
The Turkish giants dodged a bullet at home against ZVVZ USK Prague in their last game, one which was there for the taking for the visitors, but a gutsy Galatasaray squeezed out what was an unlikely win after a nightmare start.
For playmaker Ozge Yavas, currently playing in her rookie EuroLeague Women season, the current situation in relation to absences is something of a double-edged sword.
|Sancho Lyttle did most of the damage so far for Galatasaray, who are still waiting for some key players to return|
She is perhaps gaining more minutes and was handed additional responsibility with Whalen out, but she also knows Gala must get back to full strength.
For now though, the guard is just focusing on the game in Poland, relishing her first steps in the competition and hoping to keep the unbeaten run going.
"It's a great experience to play in such a professional environment (the EuroLeague Women) and I'm happy to be a part of it" said Yavas.
"We have had many team-mates absent due to injuries but I think we fought well for it against USK Prague and at the end, we won the game.
"We will now be fighting the same way to win the game at CCC Polkowice, and I'm sure that we will be turning back home with a smile of victory."
Form Guide: CCC Polkowice suffered an agonising drought in their opening night game at home to USO Mondeville which they lost in overtime before bouncing back at Perfumerias Avenida. In the Polish League, they are unbeaten. Galatasaray exploded in their opener against a shell-shocked Novi Zagreb and sneaked past ZVVZ USK Prague, but they had to stomach that league loss to Kayseri in the Turkish League last weekend and were comprehensively beaten in the Presidents' Cup by arch rivals Fenerbahce.
The Hot Hands: Nnemkadi Ogwumike has impressed since making her EuroLeague Women debut with the Polish side. She is averaging 21.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game and is a perfect 12 of 12 from the free-throw line. Laia Palau is leading the team not only in assists with 5.5 per game, but also in rebounds too, with 6.5 per game - although she will want to improve her shooting performances. Sancho Lyttle leads the way for Galatasaray with an impressive season double-double so far of 13 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. She has also done it defensively too with an excellent 4.0 steals per game. Playmaker Isil Alben has also done a good job with 6.5 assists per game.
‘X Factors': There are some great match-ups all over the floor and as suggested by Winnicki and Snell, how CCC Polkowice handle Sancho Lyttle will be important. Both teams are shooting exactly the same percentage, an ordinary 41.9%, and both do a good job on the glass, especially offensively. The main difference is that Galatasaray have a major edge so far when it comes to steals - the best in the competition in fact, so the Polkowice ball handlers will need to be on their game. Working against Gala is the fact they are missing far too many free-throws and at 58.3%, they are the second worst of any team. Ironically, the hosts have been at the free-throw line more than anyone else and done a mediocre job of converting them.