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EuroLeague Women: Gameday 3 brings emotions, excitement

Fenerbahçe’s mortality, DVTK’s persistence and UNI Gyor’s struggles are the highlights and lowlights of a surprisingly close week of EuroLeague games.

Besiktas v Polkowice - 2023 FIBA Basketball Women’s Europa League Qualifiers
Dragana Stankovic of Polkowice, who are on a two-win streak.
Photo by Mehmet Murat Onel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

While the WNBA season is now in the (record) books, EuroLeague is getting into high gear. Below is the roundup of the third week of the top European competition:

Group A

For the defending EuroLeague champs, things unfolded pretty similarly through the first two games: Fenerbahçe started the contest hot and continued to score on helpless opponents as the game went on. On Wednesday, when they were able to build up a 13-point lead with two minutes left in the second quarter, it all looked to familiar. Until it didn’t. Four minutes into the second half Zaragoza led 47-46. From that point on, the teams went back and forth, with Fenerbahçe escaping with the three-point win, 74-71. The player of the game, if not of the whole gameday, was Kayla McBride, who kept Fener in the game with her shooting, scoring 26 points and shooting 4-for-6 from 3. With Napheesa Collier’s short-term deal up, fellow Minnesota Lynx big Nikolina Milić and Dallas Wing Natasha Howard will be expected to do more to keep the Turkish champions rolling. On Wednesday Milić scored 13 points, but Howard struggled, going 1-for-4 from the floor with two fouls and a turnover.

DVTK remain the only other unbeaten team in Group A after winning a close game over Famila Schio. As the fourth quarter began, both teams had yet to pass the 40-point mark. The last period of play made up for that slugfest of a game, with DVTK methodically getting close-range shots and the Italians chasing the score with 3s. Arella Guirantes made two crazy 3s, but in the end DVTK was too meticulous and too fundamentally sound to be beaten, securing the 59-55 victory. Keep an eye out for Guirantes though, the New York-born Puerto Rican guard has been solid for the Italian champions so far. Thanks to her late-game heroics, Schio came really close to remaining undefeated as well.

In the game between the two winless teams in the group, AZS UMCS got its first W, with Shyla Heal coming into her own with a 25-point outing. Also of note was the performance of Channon Fluker, who, in her fourth game for Lublin, had 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Group A Scores:

Valencia Basket (Spain) 70, LDLC ASVEL Féminin (France) 61

AZS UMCS Lublin (Poland) 76, ACS Sepsi SIC (Romania) 65

Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding (Turkey) 74, Casademont Zaragoza (Spain) 71

DVTK HUN-Therm (Hungary) 59, Beretta Famila Schio (Italy) 55

Group B

Kristine Anigwe deserves better. She’s second in the EuroLeague in scoring, fourth in rebounds, and yet her team, the Hungarian runner-ups UNI Gyor, have yet to win a single game in the competition. On Wednesday, despite homecourt advantage, Gyor lost to the Czech champions, Praha, by 19. Anigwe had 27 points and nine rebounds, but none of her teammates scored more than eight points. On the other side of the court, Ezi Magbegor, the EuroLeague’s rebounding leader, had 21 points, eight rebounds and, most importantly, help from her teammates, with only two of the eight USK players who appeared in the game scoring less than eight points.

Polkowice won their second EuroLeague game, this time thanks to Brianna Fraser’s 20-point performance. What’s more impressive is the effort put forth by Brittney Sykes. Praising “Slim” for night when she scored six points and shot 20 percent from the field may seem strange, but it’s the way a player performs on her off nights that are the testament to her greatness. Instead of forcing her shots, Sykes decided to impact the game with her rebounding (10 boards), ball handling and passing (five assists).

Group B Scores:

Çukurova Basketbol Mersin (Turkey) 69, Villeneuve d’Ascq LM (France) 60

BC Polkowice (Poland) 81, Basket Landes (France) 75

ZVVZ Usk Praha (Czech Republic) 83, SERCO UNI Győr (Hungary) 64

Virtus Segafredo Bologna (Italy) 79, Perfumerias Avenida (Spain) 75