***Lithuanian side VICI Aistes take on the Hungarians of UNI Seat Gyor this evening at 18:15 CET in Kaunas. Watch the EuroLeague Women Group A game LIVE and for free on FIBA Europe TV***
Preview by Paul Nilsen
|Watch the game LIVE at 18:15 CET on FIBA Europe TV|
Courtnay Pilypaitis is adamant good things are about to happen at VICI Aistes Kaunas as they seek a first win of the season at the fifth attempt.
In stark contrast to last season, when the Lithuanian club made an immediate impact with a shock victory of epic proportions during week one to stun the then reigning champions Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, it's proven an altogether tougher start this time around.
Pitched into what is widely acknowledged as the toughest of the respective groups, four losses have perhaps been predictable against a quartet of teams all amongst the front-runners this year but the margin of those defeats will no doubt be the biggest disappointment for fans in Kaunas.
Having faced, UMMC Ekaterinburg, Ros Casares, Galatasaray Medical Park and ZVVZ USK Prague, opportunity now knocks with a home clash against Uni Seat Gyor, although they won't be taking anything for granted.
"We are very excited about our upcoming game against Gyor" explained Pilypaitis.
"We have had a rough start to EuroLeague Women and consequently we are anxious to get back on our home court and show our full potential.
"We have another tough opponent in Gyor, and except it to be a very competitive game. They have very good players that we have to defend well to get a win.
"Their team is extremely well balanced as they have almost five players averaging double figures, so we will have to focus on all players, and make sure our defense is at its best.
She added: "I believe that our team has to play hard for 40 minutes and play as a team to achieve success. We have been working hard these past couple weeks and getting better each day in practice, and I feel like we are ready to play our best game of the season."
Also finding it tough are the visitors although the Hungarian club can at least boast having chalked up an historic first win during their rookie EuroLeague Women season.
One player who has certainly managed to perform in each game after making the step up with Gyor is Rita Rasheed and she is counting on the learning curve proving a fruitful experience for the newcomers.
She said, "I think, this season will be a very good learning year for us and especially because we are young team playing our first ever season of EuroLeague Women.
"Every game adds a little more to our development and offers us more experience. I actually think so far our games have been good and we have validated our playing style and played the same way we want to play in the Hungarian Championship.
"We are in a really difficult group with a lot of accomplished and experienced players and somehow we have to learn and grow up to them. The only way we can do this is by always looking to jump a step up."
Season So Far: VICI-Aistes Kaunas is unbeaten in the Lithuanian league but are yet to find success in EuroLeague Women after four losses. All have been by double digits and it has been an uphill struggle against so many of the tournament favourites. Uni Seat Gyor lost their first game in the competition to Ros Casares but harvested that precious first win in an overtime thriller against Lotos Gdynia during week two. Since then, they have crashed on the road at Bourges and at home to Galatasaray Medical Park. In the Hungarian League they are joint top of the league with an unbeaten 7-0 record along with Sopron and Pecs.
The Hot Hands: Rita Rasheed has been one of the most consistent performers around this season while Quanitra Hollingsworth finished as joint MVP of week 2 before she got injured. As for the hosts, it's been a lean start to the season with Vita Kuktiene and Vaida Sipaviciute the only two players on the VICI Aistes Kaunas roster managing to shoot more than a medocore 35% rom the field which shows just how tough it has been.
The ‘X Factors': With Renee Montgomery having left the club recently, there is even more emphasis on Quanitra Hollingsworth but she has been injured and is not certain to play. These two potential absences are significant but if Hollingsworth did make it, then the dynamic would change and it would be a huge boost for the visiting team. In terms of other ‘X-Factors' in the game, sometimes it's not rocket science. VICI Aistes Kaunas have the worst field goal percentage in the tournament (even if this is due to facing the better quality teams so far) and must shoot the ball better all over the floor, not just in this game but for the rest of this group phase.
Key Match Up: By her own high standards, the talented Sandra Linkeviciene hasn't quite imposed herself as much as she is capable of, while the same can probably be said of Rima Valentiene. With Renee Montgomery absent from the Gyor line-up, the duo has the chance to really show their skills in the home backcourt and try to dominate this game. However, the pair will have to play well against Croatian point guard Iva Ciglar in the quest to and control the tempo.