November 5, 2022 

EuroLeague Week 2: Time to celebrate … and reasons for concern?

Italian teams can't catch a break; KSC gets double-overtime win over Fenerbahçe

The second week of the 2023 EuroLeague season was written in both golden and charcoal ink. There was a little bit of everything for everyone to enjoy, but also to feel upset about. The story of the week developed over a very long Hungarian evening in which KSC and Fenerbahçe needed double overtime.

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KSC debuted in the EuroLeague last year and went winless in the 14-game regular season. It was very close to earning a victory a week ago but fell to USK Praha by 11 points after a terrible third quarter.

Nobody (and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here) thought KSC would give Fenerbahçe much trouble on Wednesday, even with the Hungarian side playing at home and the Turkish side coming off a surprising Week 1 defeat. Talk about unwritten scripts and Cinderella stories, though.

KSC earned its first-ever EuroLeague victory with a 103-101 double-overtime win over Fenerbahçe. It couldn’t have been sweeter for KSC given how the team got it and, most of all, the opponent.

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Just two weeks ago, the consensus would have painted Fenerbahçe as the clear favorite to lift the EuroLeague trophy. After two games, though, the Turkish side is sitting at the bottom of Group A with a 0-2 record and a minus-29 point difference.

This Fenerbahçe team is still missing Satou Sabally and Breanna Stewart and is also without Emma Meesseman, who got injured during the World Cup. The concerns, though, are obvious when looking at the rest of the roster and how it’s underperformed. Kayla McBride, Kiah Stokes and Natasha Howard have played both games while Alina Iagupova also appeared in the season opener, but to no avail.

The two WNBA imports playing for KSC were too much for Fenerbahçe’s superstars to handle: Victoria Vivians scored 25 points and Ruthy Hebard finished with an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double. Not to mention Cyesha Goree’s 30 points, five assists, four boards and three steals.

Kudos to Howard and McBride (both scoring 28 points, and the former pulling down 10 rebounds, too), and even Olivia Epoupa (eight points, nine dimes, seven steals and five rebounds), but all of the flowers must be given to KSC. It’s not every day that you defeat Fenerbahçe, much less on a budget and after a winless season.

Staying in Hungary, DVTK sent the Belgian side Mechelen home after a hair-thin 79-78 victory that was decided in the last second. Mechelen tied the game at 77 with three seconds left with a 3-point play by Lisa Berkani. But DVTK made the most of its play off a timeout as Arella Guirantes scored the game-winning layup with time expiring.

Spanish and French teams split; Italian sides can’t help themselves

Seven teams (almost half the field) in the EuroLeague are from Spain, France or Italy. With so many squads from those countries in the competition, it is impossible not to have some of them matching up weekly. That is what happened last Wednesday, with Spanish teams earning a 2-1 record, French sides finishing 1-1, and Italian teams getting the worst of it at 0-2.

Avenida started its domestic season slowly with consecutive defeats in the Spanish league, but it is 2-0 in the EuroLeague and can’t be looking any better. After defeating Cukurova 83-66 in Week 1, Avenida beat Basket Landes 81-57. Sara Roumy was the most prolific scorer for Landes with 11 points while four players from Avenida bested that mark, with Mariella Fasoula (18) and Julia Reisingerova (21) leading the Spanish side and Aleksandra Crvendakic getting a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double.

Girona got the second win of the week for a Spanish team with an 83-63 victory over Italian side Famila Schio. It was disappointing for the star-studded Schio with Astou Ndour (11 points, 10 rebounds) the only notable performer and Rhyne Howard shooting 3-of-13 (23%) from the field. Girona outrebounded Schio 48 to 39 and posted much better percentages on shots from beyond the arc and from the free-throw line en route to a 26-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

Virtus Bologna fell just short against Tango Bourges, losing 61-64 to the French side and making it 0-2 for Italian teams in Week 2, while Tango split the French week-record 1-1 after Landes’ defeat to Avenida.

Although a newcomer, it’s rather surprising to find Virtus Bologna with an 0-2 record. Cecilia Zandalasini, Iliana Rupert and Cheyenne Parker combined for 38 points and 27 rebounds (Rupert got a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double), but Bologna couldn’t top Bourges’ team-oriented effort. Four Bourges players scored 10-plus points, five players pulled down at least four rebounds, and Kayla Alexander contributed a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double.

Valencia was the only Spanish team on the wrong side of things after suffering a 76-83 defeat at the hands of Alyssa Thomas‘ USK Praha. But that doesn’t do justice to this game. Thomas was her usual sublime self, approaching triple-double territory (22 points, 10 rebounds, seven dimes, three steals and a block), but she got massive help from Valeriane Vukosavljevic (33 points) and Maria Conde (12 points, 10 rebounds, four boards and four assists).

Valencia’s best performers were two former Los Angeles Sparks: Lauren Cox (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Marie Gulich (18 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks). That wasn’t enough, though, as Valencia got outrebounded on the offensive glass four to 12 while also losing the assists battle 15 to 25.

Megan Gustafson’s dominance not enough for Olympiacos; Cukurova can’t maximize Jonquel Jones’ arrival

Two of the most impressive individual performances in EuroLeague Week 2 came from expected sources: Olympiacos’ Megan Gustafson and Cukurova’s Jonquel Jones.

The former already had an extraordinary opener when she helped Olympiacos defeat Tango Bourges by contributing 24 points and 13 rebounds, and she doubled down on that with 30 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks against Polkowice. That latest outing, though, was not enough as Olympiacos dropped its first game of the season, 70-83.

Polkowice made the most of the “strength in numbers” motto with four players hitting double-digit points and Yvonne Turner adding nine. The Polish side also had two players putting up double-doubles: former Chicago Sky forward Stephanie Mavunga (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Greek international Artemis Spanou (27 and 11) in her return home.

Jones finally made her debut with Turkish side CBK Mersin and, as she usually does overseas, logged minutes in the low 20s (22) while still double-doubling her way to 20 points, 10 rebounds, a dime and a block for an efficiency of 26. Although she had more help than Gustafson did, Cukurova got trounced by reigning champions Sopron, 50-75.

Sopron lost Final Four MVP Gabby Williams this offseason after her deal ran out, but the addition of Brittney Sykes has been an absolute coup for the Hungarian side. She proved that in Week 1 (24 points, seven assists) and again this past Wednesday (18 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds, five steals and one block). Ezi Magbegor (12) and Alice Kunek (10) scored double-digit points, and Dragana Stankovic didn’t contribute a single bucket in 12 minutes but pulled down seven boards.

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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