December 11, 2021 

Fenerbahçe claims Istanbul with another Turkish Derby win in EuroLeague play

The second half of the regular season has already crowned a winner, if only among teams from Istanbul

In European competitions such as the EuroLeague, the season is split into two halves, with teams facing each other twice each season. And as sad as it is, we’re already one game into the second half of the EuroLeague regular season and winding down the game days left on the schedule.

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But hey, we can’t complain. After the EuroLeague went on a two-week hiatus following the first five games (one-third) of the season, everybody came back hot. Then, last week, the competition offered us what was probably the best game ever played on European soil, featuring last season’s EuroLeague champion and runner-up.

This week, everybody went back to square one. Wait, what!?

Yes, I meant what I said. As is the case in most European leagues, we kicked off the second half of the schedule (seven more regular-season games) with a re-do of Week 1, only with the home courts flipped.

I could have covered every game that took place this week in detail, but I didn’t want to make this week’s column 8,000 words, so I focused on the best of them all (at least on paper and for what it meant to both teams): the second round of the Turkish Demolition Derby between Istanbul’s Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray.

Turkish Demolition Derby, Rd. 2: Fenerbahçe vs. Galatasaray

It’d make no sense to discuss anything other than the true, clear-cut, best EuroLeague derby of the season between two rivals from the same country (and city!) in these two. It doesn’t get much heated than Fener vs. Gala, folks. It’s hell on a basketball court. Not joking.

If you remember what took place in Week 1, you’re probably 1) a fan of Fenerbahçe, 2) a person with a very good memory or 3) an individual easily affected by primacy bias. Whatever the case, here’s what happened back then: Fenerbahçe demolished its Istanbul-based rivals 89-69, a result that seemed as good as possible… until Week 8 happened.

If that 20-point victory looked bad from Galatasaray’s angle, then I don’t know what they think about what happened last Wednesday: Fenerbahçe beat Galatasaray 107-62. Not a typo, folks. It was more Flexerbahçe than Fenerbahçe, if you know what I’m saying.

Usually, when a team gets so far ahead, they stop going at it and give their opponent a little relief. The winning team rests a bit and the losing crew doesn’t experience a true blasting. Not this time, not in Turkey.

Fenerbahçe never allowed Galatasaray to score 20 points in any quarter on Wednesday, and they never scored fewer than 25 points themselves in any quarter. The game was already at a point-of-no-return 52-25 score by halftime. Did Fenerbahçe stop the carnage? No. A 30-18 third quarter and a 25-19 fourth quarter completed the Conquering of Istanbul. A bunch of teams would be happy to score Galatasaray’s 62 points on any given week. But this was an absolute shame for a team that had already lost its Week 1 game by a sizable margin.

Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride (21) shoots during a WNBA game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on Aug. 19, 2021. (Photo credit: Chris Poss)

No need to point out who aged like fine wine or like poor milk among these two, right? Of course, the gap between the rosters is quite large. Galatasaray had Dallas Wings import Chelsea Dungee for the first four weeks of play, but then they released her because of her middling play. They also benefited from Las Vegas Aces’ Riquna Williams‘ arrival later while featuring MVP contender Tina Krajisnik and another fantastic Euro player in Anete Steinberga. But there are only three Gala players averaging at least a 15 efficiency mark this season compared to Fenerbahçe’s four such players, and that’s just the start.

Fenerbahçe, if you aren’t paying that much attention, has Kayla McBride, Elizabeth Williams, Amanda Zahui B., Kiah Stokes and Satou Sabally from the WNBA. That’s five players signed from overseas, which is pretty much all you need to thrive… unless you can also afford back-to-back EuroLeague MVP Alina Iagupova on top of that. Just in case.

Although the first week’s game was kind of balanced in terms of individual performances (the top four players in efficiency were divided equally between the teams), that was far from the story developing last Wednesday. When the final buzzer blared in Istanbul, the top five players in efficiency were all from Fenerbahçe. In fact, six of the top seven players were.

Sabally, who wasn’t yet ready to play in Week 1, featured in the latest derby and finished with a game-high 28 efficiency thanks to a ridiculously fantastic 19-point, eight-rebound, five-assist, one-steal and one-block line in just 27 minutes. McBride (26 points and 25 efficiency), Iagupova (15 points, 10 assists, 23 efficiency), Elizabeth Williams (22 efficiency), and Turkish forward Tugce Canitez (17 efficiency) were too much for Galatasaray.

Krajisnik was a shell of herself in a game that definitely dented her MVP case, and Galatasaray was also missing Steinberga, which definitely didn’t help. We probably will not get this derby again this season unless both teams cross paths in the playoffs. That might actually be good news for Galatasaray, which might prefer to look forward to next season’s derbies (in the EuroLeague if luck has it, or just in the Turkish League) rather than another round in this 2021-22 campaign.

Dallas Wings forward Megan Gustafson (13) shoots a free throw during a WNBA game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on May 14, 2019. (Photo credit: Chris Poss)

Golden nuggets from Week 8

This is a quick recap of what happened in the last game day in terms of individual performances worth highlighting, unique stat lines, efficient games, bad outings, forgettable outcomes and everything else my data-crunching abilities allowed me to come up with!

  • Week 8 marked the best game day for WNBA imports so far. Five of the top six players in efficiency came from the United States: Kahleah Copper (34), Megan Gustafson (31), Alyssa Thomas (30), Brionna Jones (28) and Sabally (28).
  • But that’s not all: Nine of the top 15 most efficient players from Week 8 were WNBA players. Along with the aforementioned players, Emma Meesseman, McBride, Elizabeth Williams and Natasha Howard all finished in that group with efficiency marks above 20.
  • Kudos to Serbian center Dragana Stankovic for tying for the fourth-highest efficiency of the slate. She did so while playing only 18 minutes for USK Praha, which makes it even more impressive that she was able to drop 17 points, six rebounds, four dimes, three blocks and a steal on Wednesday.

  • Iagupova put up a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists. She’s the only player with two such outings this season and also the only player with three games with at least nine assists.
  • Iagupova’s was one of the five dub-dubs we witnessed this week, all of the other four coming on points and rebounds from Rebekah Gardner (11-10), Howard (13-12), Thomas (18-11 and 9 assists!) and Kayla Thornton (12-10).
  • “Shame” on Gustafson for falling one rebound short of the feat, Sandrine Gruda for falling one point short and Maria Vadeeva for finishing three points short. Better luck next time!
  • Very disappointing performance by Jonquel Jones, who had looked absolutely unstoppable in her prior overseas games. Jones could only finish with five points, two assists and one steal, block and rebound each for UMMC against the lowly TTT Riga. She only got to play 17 minutes, but even then we were expecting fireworks and ended up getting a rather putrid efficiency of 4 from her.

  • It was definitely a great week for fans enamored of niche statistics such as steals, blocks and turnovers.
  • Both Gabby Williams and Laia Flores were able to steal six possessions from each other’s team when Sopron and Girona faced off on Thursday. Olivia Epoupa of BLMA got the second-most steals with five on a day in which her team could do nothing to stop USK Praha. Even with a very solid 17 points, six rebounds and one dime, Epoupa finished with an efficiency of 17 but a -17 plus-minus.
  • When it came to blocking shots, three players tied for the top spot, swatting three each: Daugile Sarauskaite, Stankovic and Gustafson.
  • Now, for the ugly side of things, Jasmine Thomas (not the one from the Connecticut Sun, mind you) was horrific at taking care of the ball, committing seven (!!!) turnovers in 28 minutes. Nobody else logged more than five turnovers this week.

  • Michaela Onyenwere arrived in Girona (Spain) earlier this month and should be available to play soon after having recovered from her thumb injury.
  • Bria Hartley will debut in EuroLeague this season in January. Fenerbahçe opted to go with the rest of its imports over Hartley (which makes sense because she was injured and had not played basketball in over a year as of a few months ago), thus saving a little bit of money while waiting. As if the Turkish side needed more reinforcements.

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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