TV Game Preview: Wisla vs. USK Prague

20 February 2012

EUROLEAGUE WOMEN

By Paul Nilsen

Click here to watch Wisla Can-Pack vs USK Prague LIVE and for free, Tuesday at 19:45 CET

EuroLeague Women legend DeLisha Milton-Jones has admitted missing out on a Final Eight spot in Istanbul would break her heart.

ZVVZ USK Prague is preparing to do battle with Wisla Can-Pack in what promises to be an intense Round 2 match-up and the merest notion of crashing out of the competition is something which is already proving difficult to bear.

"Missing out on the Final Eight would be heart-breaking for both the team and me personally" said the forward.

"I live for post-season action in EuroLeague Women and it's been long overdue for me to rekindle that flame.

"But for now, our focus is just on the task in hand and for sure, the series against Wisla will be a good one.

"Both teams are hungry for victories and will fight to the very end."

The Czech club certainly will have a fight on their hands since they have been rocked by a season ending ankle injury to Ilona Burgrova and with Milton-Jones herself not guaranteed to be at full fitness, the frontcourt is beginning to look a little under-cooked.

Nevertheless, the experienced American is adamant her team has the confidence to emerge victorious whoever is on the floor and that defence will be the key to the series.

She said, "It will definitely come down to who plays better defence for the longest period of time, seeing that both teams have no problems with scoring.

"Wisla has a coach in Jose Hernandez that is battle-tested and knows what type of effort and focus his team will need. He has a lot of experience in post-season play and will rise to the challenge.

"But, our team is hungry for the chance to make a lot of noise and solidify ourselves as a play-off ready team. We are ready and have a newfound confidence about us."

While optimistic of her team's chances, Milton-Jones was honest enough to admit it hasn't been a smooth ride this season but their experiences during the first phase of the tournament are likely to be invaluable during the series with Wisla.

"Round 1 was definitely tough for us this year since we had to face many monstrous sized teams that were well equipped for post season play.

"I think we held our own pretty good and in spite of our record, we are proud of our efforts.

"The highlights for us was beating Valencia and having great opportunities, late in many other games, against top ranked opponents to win.

"We beat ourselves many times this season and that has left a taste of defeat with just the right amount of sweetness that has kept us hungry for the games to come."

According to Wisla Can-Pack center Milka Bjelica, the biggest challenge USK Prague will face is likely to be the special atmosphere in Krakow and especially if a third deciding game is necessary.

"First of all, I think that we have done an excellent job up until now with our position in the play-off rankings meaning have the possibility of playing a third game at our home court.

"For us, it is very important to play in Krakow and in front of our fantastic fans.

"But, in the play-offs, all teams are good and there's no relaxation at all and especially against a team like Prague."

 

SEASON SO FAR

  • Wisla Can Pack finished second in Group C with a 10-4 record and they were the third highest ranked team in the competition due to their excellent record against the top teams. Two of their Round 1 defeats actually came against lowly Frisco Brno and Cras Basket Taranto who both didn't qualify. Wisla Can Pack are leading the Polish league having lost just once all season.
  • ZVVZ USK Prague finished fourth in Group A with an 8-6 record. Their most notable scalp was a win against Ros Casares in Valencia, the only team to manage that feat during Round 1. Five of their losses came against the top three teams in their group with the other being an opening week loss in Bourges. Domestically, USK Prague are unbeaten and the league champions elect.

 

THE HOT HANDS

  • Since scoring eight points in the first game of the season, Nicole Powell has posted 13 consecutive double digit scores for Wisla Can Pack. She has averaged 18.5 points across the last four games, shooting an impressive 44% from downtown.
  • The irrepressible Czech Republic national team star Eva Viteckova has shone brightly of late for Prague. She was the EuroLeague Women Player of the Week last time out after posting a quite sensational record breaking efficiency index rating of 40.

 

THE X-FACTORS

  • Perhaps the biggest ‘X-Factor' is injuries. It seems that after a season of being affected by the loss of key players, Wisla Can-pack are finally getting a clean bill of health just at the right time of the season whereas USK Prague are picking up injuries at the worst possible time. This contrast is no better highlighted than by the likely return to the floor after over two months on the side-lines of Australian guard Erin Phillips who is a dynamic force for Wisla Can Pack and this is a significant boost for the Krakow club.
  • Since both teams average 35 rebounds per game, this subtle difference could be changed by the loss of Burgrova and no doubt Wisla Can Pack will be looking to take full advantage. Meanwhile if Milton-Jones is also not guaranteed to be firing on all cylinders, the experienced all-round post play of Spanish veteran Anna Montanana will be critical. For she is the one who has the passing vision in the lanes to get the ball to her team-mates cutting to the basket or popping the ball out to the open shooters,
  • Both teams also shoot the three pretty well although it's likely that USK Prague will lose more than Wisla is they fail to fire effectively from downtown.

 

KEY MATCH-UP

It will be interesting to see how many minutes Erin Phillips plays on her expected return to action but if she does get some decent court time, then it looks to be a terrific match-up with Lindsay Whalen. The American has also recovered from serious injury this season and is yet to find top gear but now would be the perfect time to dig out a big performance for USK Prague.


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