December 3, 2022 

EuroLeague: Group B season review at the first break

A four-way tie at the top, and Basket Landes remains winless

With the month of December already here and the cold winter coming strong this year, the EuroLeague is the only thing that will keep us warm and cozy. The competition will enter a three-week sprint before the Christmas break to complete the first half of the season.

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Before the ball gets rolling again, we still have a weekend to review the first month of play. We discussed Group A last Saturday, so it’s time to take a look at Group B. Again, the teams are listed based on their current record, following the official standings available on FIBA’s website.

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1. Spar Girona (3-1)

It is wild to think Girona nearly missed out on qualifying for the EuroLeague after dropping its first qualifying game by 12 points. But it came back and made it to the regular season, and now Girona sits atop Group B. The Spanish club can thank the Chicago Sky’s Rebekah Gardner for that, as she’s been unstoppable through the qualifying games and the first month of the regular season.

Gardner hit the ground running with two outings of five rebounds, four steals and three assists each to go with 12 and 15 points against ESBVA in the qualifying series. She didn’t stop there, though, leading Girona in points (10.8), rebounds (6.3), assists (3.0) and steals (2.0) per game through Week 4 of the regular season while playing the most minutes (28.0 per game) among Girona players.

In fact, Girona might be kicking itself for its lone loss of the season against EuroLeague debutants Kangoeroes Mechelen because its other three games included wins over Sopron (EuroLeague’s reigning champions) and Famila Schio (winners of the Italian League, Cup and Supercup last year). However, Girona has been a bit random in its outcomes, winning by 20 points against Famila Schio but losing by 10 to Kangoeroes and earning their other victories by just three and five points.

When you average Girona’s ranks in all statistical categories, Girona comes out in the middle of the pack. It has a glaring lack of assisted baskets (the lowest number in the EuroLeague) and is struggling to score points (fourth-lowest in points per game). But it’s making up for that with the second-best mark in points allowed and the third-best mark in rebounds per game.

2. Famila Schio (3-1)

The Italian side needed more than a strong effort to fend off newcomers DVTK in its season opener (90-82 victory), and that might have impacted the team in its second game a week later, a 20-point loss to Girona. Other than that outing, Famila Schio has stomped the opposition, scoring at least 71 points in all of its wins and finishing with point differentials of eight, 17 and 20 points.

Although WNBA import Rhyne Howard is coming off her worst game of the season, she’s arguably been the steadiest of performers for Famila Schio along with fellow WNBA player Marina Mabrey. Both players are averaging the most minutes (31 and 32) on the team and putting up at least 12 points, four rebounds, nearly three dimes and more than one steal per game.

Famila Schio has the third-best all-statistics average so far, and it predicates its game on taking care of the ball while limiting opponents’ scoring. Astou Ndour has been incredible on defense and is tied for eighth in blocks per game (1.3) while also grabbing 6.3 rebounds per game. Ndour is one of only seven EuroLeague players averaging at least 13 points, six rebounds and one block. She’s the only one doing that in fewer than 28 minutes per game, currently averaging 26.

Although Famila Schio defeated perennial contenders Avenida, its two other wins were against 0-4 Basket Landes and 1-3 DVTK. The schedule will get tougher going forward, including Sopron right after the break and a CBK Mersin side that is starting to kick into high gear after a slow start.

3. Sopron (3-1)

The Hungarian side lost 2022 Final Four MVP Gabby Williams in the offseason but is looking as strong as it ever did last year. It took four weeks for Sopron to lose its first game this season, and it came by a mere three points (to Girona).

With Williams off to play in her native France, it’s been all about two other WNBA imports this season: Ezi Magbegor (Seattle Storm) and Brittney Sykes (Los Angeles Sparks). The former has been impressive with her 11-plus points and seven-plus rebounds per game (to go with nearly two blocks per outing), but it’s been Sykes who has entered the MVP conversation through the first third of the season. Sykes is averaging 16.5 points (12th-most in the EuroLeague), 7.3 dimes (second) and 3.5 steals (third) per game. She’s the only player putting those three averages together.

The loss against Girona was a strange one because it was the first game in which Sopron didn’t get even 30 rebounds or 12 assists. Sopron also had 15 turnovers. On the other hand, it collected six blocks and 10 steals.

Sopron ranks just sixth in points per game but has the stiffest defense in the league, allowing a measly 60 points per game. It is also the only team with fewer than 11 turnovers per game (10.5) and ranks in the top five in blocks, assists and efficiency.

4. Avenida (3-1)

It’s been a shaky season for Avenida, especially on the road. Its lone loss (to Famila Schio) happened on the road, and that’s been the case in the Spanish league, too. It won its three other games to date, but those wins came with a little asterisk, as they were against a Jonquel Jones-less Cukurova, a still-winless Basket Landes, and 1-3 Belgium newcomers Kangoeroes. A win is a win, especially at this level of competition, but Avenida will need to prove that its early-season push is for real against Sopron, Girona and Cukurova (now with Jones) in three of its next four games.

After losing Kahleah Copper, the Samuelson sisters and other impactful players in the offseason, Avenida signed Moriah Jefferson, but she has yet to play while recovering from injury. The addition of Erica McCall has been good but not great, and this week Avenida signed Minnesota Lynx forward Bridget Carleton to bolster its roster.

As far as individual performances go, Avenida has been led by Aleksandra Crvendakic (13.5 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game; three double-doubles) and Julia Reisingerova (12 points and 7.3 rebounds per game). While the forwards and centers have excelled on the glass and defending the basket, the problems for Avenida are with passing (fifth-worst in the EuroLeague in assists) and steals (second-worst).

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5. CBK Mersin (2-2)

CBK is 0-2 when Jonquel Jones plays fewer than 30 minutes and 2-0 when she plays 30 or more. She didn’t play in the first game of the season and was limited in the second (22 minutes). That is a simple statistic but hardly surprising considering that Jones has a WNBA MVP award and four All-Star nods under her belt. Greatness was always expected.

Cukurova was actually lucky to draw Avenida and Sopron in its first two games because those were very tough outings that might have ended in defeat even with Jones. They’ll have another chance at both teams in January, though. In its wins, CBK mauled Basket Landes on the boards (49 to 22) in a 68-61 win and dished out a season-high 25 assists in a 77-58 win over DVTK.

CBK boasts Jones along with three other active WNBA imports (Tiffany Hayes, DeWanna Bonner and Briann January) and one former WNBA player in center Quanitra Hollingsworth. Jones’ 19.7 points and 14.7 rebounds per game are unmatched in the EuroLeague. Hayes is averaging more than 17 points, four boards and three dimes per game. Bonner is one of four players averaging more than 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists. On and on it goes …

The individual talent is obvious, but the team cohesion is still a work in program. Yes, CBK’s record went from 0-2 to 2-2 in the last two weeks of play, but it still ranks fifth-worst overall when combining all statistics. The Turkish side ranks last in steals per game, second-worst in points scored and blocks per game, and below average in assists and turnovers per game. Things have to change for CBK to contend.

6. DVTK (1-3)

The record and the position in the standings are more indicative of DVTK than the underlying numbers. The Hungarian side ranks dead last in the EuroLeague in combined statistical average, even though it doesn’t rank last in any individual category. The only categories in which it ranks in the top half are steals (eighth-best) and turnovers (fifth).

DVTK snatched a one-point victory against fellow newcomers Kangoeroes in the second week of play, but over the full season, it has amassed a minus-36 point differential. It has conceded at least 75 points in every game and has serious problems with fouling (20 personal fouls per game, the second-most in the league).

Puerto Rico international Arella Guirantes has been a bright light in DVTK’s campaign. She’s coming off her best game of the season: 24 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals against CBK. On the season, Guirantes is averaging 16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. Only Alyssa Thomas has matched that across the EuroLeague, and Thomas is doing it in five more minutes per game than Guirantes’ 34.5.

DVTK will play Girona and Avenida next, both on the road, and host Basket Landes before the next break. The Hungarian side should be happy if it welcomes Santa still in sixth place with a 2-5 record.

7. Kangoeroes Mechelen (1-3)

The Belgium side is 1-3 and seventh in Group B, but one of its losses was by just one point against sixth-place DVTK. That’s how thin margins are at this level. That said, though, Kangoeroes debuted with a 29-point loss to Sopron, highlighting how far it is from being a serious contender.

Mechelen ranks in the bottom two in rebounding and assists, and it also sports bottom-five marks in points allowed, steals and efficiency. The only statistic in which it is above average is personal fouls per game. Not a very flashy accomplishment.

One of only two teams in the EuroLeague without an active WNBA import (DVTK is the other), Mechelen has not really had an incredible individual performer to date. At 33 years old, Ziomara Morrison (a former San Antonio Silver Stars player) has been the best performer with a double-double in the third game and at least 10 points scored in every match she’s played.

Lisa Berkani (15.5 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game) is also worth mentioning, but like Morrison, she’s needing more than 35 minutes per game to reach those heights. There is not a lot of talent around to improve on the early-season results, I’m afraid.

8. Basket Landes (0-4)

Marine Fauthoux won the EuroLeague Young Player of the Year award last season playing for Basket Landes, but the French side only finished with a 7-7 record. Fauthoux is still hooping in Landes this season, but the early results have been rather ugly — so much so that Landes might be happy to finish the season with another 7-7 record. Landes has lost every game by at least five points and lost two games by at least 20 (a 24-point defeat against Avenida and a 20-point loss against Famila Schio).

Kristen Mann and Celine Dumerc, who played in the WNBA most recently in 2010 and 2014, respectively, haven’t been very helpful for the French club so far. Fauthoux seems to have come back to earth a bit this season, averaging seven points, three rebounds and four assists per game.

Other than Regan Magarity (12 points per game), no player on Landes’ squad is putting up even nine points per game, and Kendra Chery is the only one ranking high in the league in any other statistical category (tied for seventh in steals with 2.3 per game and tied for eighth in blocks with 1.3 per game).

Written by Antonio Losada

International freelance writer covering the WNBA overseas. Bylines at places, touching different bases. Always open to discussion over @chapulana || Full portfolio

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