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EuroLeague Women: Kayla McBride playing her best basketball for Fenerbahçe entering Week 9

Fenerbahçe Safiport has risen to the top of Group B and Kayla McBride is a major reason why; the Minnesota Lynx sharpshooter is currently leading EuroLeague Women in scoring. McBride and Fenerbahçe will take on Kennedy Burke and Spar Girona in Week 9 of the 2021-22 EuroLeague Women regular season.

Fenerbahçe’s star-studded roster has looked much more cohesive as of late, Kayla McBride (right) and Elizabeth Williams (second from right) in particular.
Image courtesy of Fenerbahçe Safiport (@fbkadinbasket) via Twitter

WNBA fans are plenty used to watching small forward Kayla McBride knock down long-range jumpshots, and it should come as no surprise that she’s been one of the top scorers in EuroLeague Women during the 2021-22 season.

In fact, McBride, who is playing her second EuroLeague season with prominent Turkish club Fenerbahçe Safiport (6-3), currently leads the competition in scoring at 20.4 points per game. She’s done it efficiently, too, shooting 51.3 percent from the field, 48.6 percent on 3-pointers, and a perfect 100 percent on free throws. McBride has scored 20 or more points on five occasions thus far, with perhaps her most iconic performance coming two weeks ago against rival club Galatasaray, in which she hit eight 3-pointers:

McBride is just one of Fenerbahçe’s many weapons, with Alina Iagupova (17.9 points and 6.2 assists), Satou Sabally (14 points and 6.5 rebounds) and Elizabeth Williams (13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks) rounding out the club’s impressive core. Though Fenerbahçe struggled unexpectedly to open the 2021-22 EuroLeague Women season, it’s been on a roll since returning from the competition’s mid-November break, winning four-straight games and looking much more like the force widely expected to win Group B.

Currently tied with Fenerbahçe atop Group B is Spanish club Spar Girona (6-3). While Girona doesn’t have a roster chock full of big names like Fenerbahçe, it’s gotten big contributions from budding star Kennedy Burke (19.3 points per game; third in EuroLeague Women in scoring) and veterans Rebekah Gardner and Laia Palau, which has been just enough to lift it to the top of the somewhat chaotic Group B.

Needless to say, Tuesday’s Week 9 matchup between Fenerbahçe and Girona is one both teams would like to win. We’re in the second half of the EuroLeague Women regular season now, and while both Fenerbahçe and Girona seem like shoo-ins to make the postseason, head-to-head records will become a factor in tiebreaker scenarios, as outlined in FIBA’s rulebook.

The good news for Girona is that Michaela Onyenwere is finally expected to make her EuroLeague Women debut this week. The 2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year had been recovering from a thumb injury, but she recorded a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds in Girona’s most recent game in the Spanish Liga Femenina de Baloncesto, so it’s a safe bet that she’ll be suiting up for the club in international play as well.

Tuesday’s clash between Fenerbahçe and Girona is just one of several games to watch in Week 9. In another compelling Group B matchup, Gabby Williams and Sopron Basket (6-3) take on Diamond DeShields and Beretta Famila Schio (5-4), while Russian superteam UMMC Ekaterinburg hosts BLMA in a bid to raise its record to 10-0. All EuroLeague Women games will be streamed live and for free on FIBA’s YouTube channel.

Monday, December 20

BLMA (5-4) vs. UMMC Ekaterinburg (9-0)

When: 9 a.m. ET

Where: DIVS Sport Hall, Ekaterinburg

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Olivia Epoupa, Haley Peters, Sydney Wallace (BLMA); Jonquel Jones, Brittney Griner, Allie Quigley, Emma Meesseman, Maria Vadeeva, Alba Torrens, Alex Bentley (UMMC Ekaterinburg)

Matchup details: Ekaterinburg dropped 92 points the last time it faced BLMA, which is the second-highest total of its highly successful EuroLeague Women season thus far. The French club has a dynamic point guard in Epoupa and one of the competition’s better scorers in Wallace, but it’s not nearly enough on paper to stack up against Ekaterinburg’s all-world roster. Of particular concern is rebounding: Ekaterinburg ranks second in the competition (43.3 rebounds per game) while BLMA is severely lacking in size to go up against the likes of Jones, Griner and Vadeeva.

Tuesday, December 21

Basket Landes (3-6) vs. Dynamo Kursk (5-4)

When: 10 a.m. ET

Where: Sport Concert Complex, Kursk

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Sophie Cunningham, Marianna Tolo, Regan Magarity, Marine Fauthoux (Basket Landes); Arike Ogunbowale, Natasha Howard, Epiphanny Prince, Eva Lisec (Dynamo Kursk)

Matchup details: Landes has now lost four games in a row, and its depth has taken a big hit with injuries to veteran point guard Dumerc (herniated disc) and forward dos Santos (knee). With this in mind, Landes’ 78-75 Week 3 victory over Kursk will likely be difficult to replicate, particularly if Ogunbowale and Prince shoot better from the backcourt than they did in that one. Look for 20-year-old Fauthoux, who, has totaled 33 points and 13 assists in her last two games, to continue to lead Landes as it tries to break out of its slide against a well-balanced Kursk team that is trying to hang on to a playoff spot in Group B.

TTT Riga (3-6) vs. MBA Moscow (2-7)

When: 11 a.m. ET

Where: Basket Hall Moscow, Moscow

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Daugilė Šarauskaitė, Ieva Pulvere (TTT Riga); Nina Glonti, Zhosselina Maiga (MBA Moscow)

Matchup details: On the surface, there may not be much to see here, but the fourth playoff seed in Group A is still very much available. Should BLMA lose against Ekaterinburg, Riga will at least remain within striking distance. The Latvian club will need to find some offense, though; Riga is scoring just 57.4 points per game, the fewest in EuroLeague Women. Moscow, meanwhile, has lost four games in a row, but its 3-point-heavy approach (27.1 attempts per game) could spell trouble for Riga if its shooters get hot.

Spar Girona (6-3) vs. Fenerbahçe Safiport (6-3)

When: 11 a.m. ET

Where: Metro Energy Sports Hall, Istanbul

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Kennedy Burke, Michaela Onyenwere, Rebekah Gardner, Laia Palau (Spar Girona); Alina Iagupova, Satou Sabally, Kayla McBride, Elizabeth Williams, Amanda Zahui B., Kiah Stokes (Fenerbahçe Safiport)

Matchup details: Girona’s 71-59 Week 3 upset of Fenerbahçe is perhaps the highlight of its season thus far, though it could be argued that beyond Burke’s 28 points, Fenerbahçe (3-of-24 on 3-pointers and 8-of-17 on free throws) simply played poor basketball. Both teams are on hot streaks, but with Fenerbahçe at home this time around, it will be up to Burke, Gardner and Girona to prove that the first meeting was not a fluke and that they’re the team to beat in Group B.

ZVVZ USK Praha (7-2) vs. KSC Szekszárd (0-9)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Szekszárd Városi Sportcsarnok, Szekszárd

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Maria Conde (ZVVZ USK Praha); Dana Evans, Cyesha Goree, Nikolina Milić (KSC Szekszárd)

Matchup details: Praha won yet another game in blowout fashion last week, besting Moscow 92-61, and is easily the hottest EuroLeague Women team not from Ekaterinburg. Thomas has taken over the competition lead in assists (6.6 per game) while Jones ranks second in scoring (19.9 points per game) and first in FIBA’s efficiency metric (23.7). It’s going to be an uphill battle for Szekszárd, to say the least, especially if Evans is out again; she didn’t play in last week’s loss to BLMA due to injury.

Galatasaray (4-5) vs. VBW Arka Gdynia (1-8)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Gdynia Arena, Gdynia

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Kaela Davis, Riquna Williams, Tina Krajišnik, Anete Šteinberga (Galatasaray); Megan Gustafson, Morgan Bertsch, Alice Kunek (VBW Arka Gdynia)

Matchup details: Galatasaray is a team in disarray, having lost three games in a row along with a good chunk of its depth due to injuries. Šteinberga was particularly missed in the team’s most recent loss, with her 17.3 points per game apparently too much to replace. Gdynia, on the other hand, has fared even worse as of late, mustering just 40 points last week against Sopron and getting next to nothing from any one player besides Gustafson. It’s looking like a great opportunity for Galatasaray to get back on track.

Sopron Basket (6-3) vs. Beretta Famila Schio (5-4)

When: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Palazzetto Livio Romare, Schio

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Gabby Williams, Shey Peddy, Briann January, Bernadett Határ (Sopron Basket); Diamond DeShields, Charli Collier, Sandrine Gruda, Kitija Laksa, Kim Mestdagh (Beretta Famila Schio)

Matchup details: Sopron put on a dominant defensive performance last week against Gdynia, and it would be even more impressive if the Hungarian club was to lock down Schio in a similar fashion. Not many of Schio’s team stats are eye-popping, but it’s a well-balanced team with both dynamic young players and established veterans; Sopron will need another big defensive game from Gabby Williams (six steals last week) in order to stymie Schio.

Umana Reyer (3-6) vs. Perfumerias Avenida (7-2)

When: 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: Pabellón Municipal Würzburg, Salamanca

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Astou Ndour-Fall, Kayla Thornton, Yvonne Anderson (Umana Reyer); Kahleah Copper, Katie Lou Samuelson, Karlie Samuelson, Bella Alarie, Emese Hof, Silvia Dominguez, Maite Cazorla (Perfumerias Avenida)

Matchup details: Avenida is back on track after a heartbreaking loss to Ekaterinburg, having won its two most recent games. Copper has been absolutely on fire for the Spanish club; she scored 25 or more points in each of her first three games with Avenida before being held in check last week. With players like Thornton and Ndour-Fall, Reyer can compete on the defensive side of the ball; whether or not it can hang with Avenida’s fourth-ranked offense is another question entirely.