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EuroLeague Women 2023-24: Fenerbahçe, Virtus Bologna and USK Praha turn in dominating Gameday 1 performances

We recap a busy, eight-game day of top-level European basketball.

Fenerbahce Alagoz Holding v Valencia Basket - FIBA Basketball Women’s Europa League
Emma Meesseman takes the ball to the hoop for Fenerbahçe
Photo by Esra Bilgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Something is ending and something begins.

As this year’s WNBA season is about to conclude with what has the makings of one of the most memorable Finals in recent years, the most important club tournament in Europe just began on the other side of the Atlantic.

And this meant the thing the EuroLeague is famous for: team-oriented basketball played in front of singing crowds. Let’s take a closer look at some of the action from Gameday 1.

Group A

Is Fenerbahçe that good or ASVEL that bad? That was the question we’ve been asking ourselves after last week’s SuperCup game, in which the Turkish giants demolished the French champions by 54 points.

The former turned out to be true, with Fenerbahçe handling the Spanish champions, Valencia Basket, by 30 points in what was supposed to be the best game of the day. Despite the score, it was a showcase of beautiful basketball.

Fenerbahçe is just incredibly efficient and well-rounded. They shot 61.9 percent from the floor, including 10-for-18 from 3, and had 31 assists. Their tallest player, 6-foot-4 Belgian Emma Meesseman, had six assists, as did Kayla McBride, who also added 16 points and six rebounds. Napheesa Collier had 17 points and six rebounds. The play of the game, though, came from Turkish point guard Alperi Onar, who, with seven seconds left in the half, dribbled through the whole court and made the layup to put her team up by 19 before the break. Onar had eight points on 4-for-4 shooting and seven assists.

As for ASVEL, after starting the game 10-0, they won the first quarter by just three points and lost the first half by three as well. Inconsistency is to blame, as the team owned by former NBA player Tony Parker continues to struggle when things just aren’t going their way. But it’s also necessary to give credit to Kaila Charles. She may have appeared in just four games for the Seattle Storm this season, but looks indispensable to DVTK. In the four games she has played so far, she has had at least 10 points. Against ASVEL, she finished up with 14 points and six rebounds, and, most importantly, her team got the W.

Group A Scores:

Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding (Turkey) 96, Valencia Basket (Spain) 66

Beretta Famila Schio (Italy) 70, AZS UMCS Lublin (Poland) 50

DVTK HUN-Therm (Hungary) 67, LDLC ASVEL Féminin (France) 57

Casademont Zaragoza (Spain) 85, - ACS Sepsi SIC (Romania) 57

Group B

ZVVZ USK Praha are the only domestic champions in Group B, which consists of six runner-ups and one quarter-finalist in French Basket Landes. This should make for more interesting and even group play. Indeed, on the first Gameday, the scores in Group B were split between dominating wins and close contests.

The Italian runners-up Virtus Segafredo Bologna and Czech champions ZVVZ USK Praha made easy work of their rivals. Virtus won by 21, in large part thanks to the sharp-shooting performance by Cecilia Zandalasini. The Italian small forward made 70 percent of her shots, including three of her four 3-point attempts. The focal point of Praha is Ezi Magbegor of the Seattle Storm, who continues to enjoy the best individual season of her professional career. In Praha’s opening game, she scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Nine of those points came in the fourth quarter, which her team began with a humble four-point lead before ending 22 points up.

The most exciting game of Gameday 1, however, was played in northern France, in the humble Villeneuve d’Ascq. The locals, led by former UCLA Bruin Kennedy Burke, barely made it past the Hungarian league runners-up, SERCO UNI Győr. In 44 minutes, Burke had 29 points, nine rebounds, four assists and six steals. It was the defensive effort that ultimately allowed the French franchise to win, as they were able to get four more shot-attempts than SERCO UNI Győr. England’s Kristine Anigwe was the go-to player for the Hungarians, finishing the game with 27 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two steals. She even scored the last shot of the game, a two-pointer, after her team failed to create a 3-point shot. Thanks to tight marking, it was the only play available. Anigwe and her teammates hustled, with playmaker Destiny Slocum at one point even jumping into the stands for a lose ball. But in the end, their good was not good enough. We’ll see if they can bounce back on Gameday 2, when they’ll be playing at home against Virtus Bologna.

Group B Scores:

Perfumerias Avenida (Spain) 82, Çukurova Basketbol Mersin (Turkey) 77

ZVVZ Usk Praha (Czech Republic) 85, Basket Landes (France) 63

Villeneuve d’Ascq LM (France) 93, SERCO UNI Győr (Hungary) 92 (OT)

Virtus Segafredo Bologna (Italy) 90, BC Polkowice (Poland) 69