EuroLeague Play: Analyzing the W’s Pivotal Presence in Action

What if I told you that the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year, WNBA Finals MVP, and an overall eight former All-Stars would be playing across the pond this week? It’s all happening in EuroLeague as Week 12 games commence, when four of the five highest-ranked teams in the league are set to face off in a pair of star-studded battles. With all of the EuroLeague action available to watch live via the EuroLeague Women’s Youtube Channel, let’s prep for the action prior to viewing this upcoming slate.

CBK Mersin Yenisehir Bld (7-4) vs. Beretta Famila Schio (8-3)

When: 11 am EST Tuesday, January 31

Notable Players: (Mersin) Chelsea Gray, Tiffany Hayes, DeWanna Bonner, Elizabeth Williams. (Schio) Rhyne Howard, Marina Mabrey, Astou Ndour-Fall, Amanda Zahui B.

These two clubs last faced off in early December, a game Italy’s Schio won 76–72 against CBK Mersin Yenisehir Bld, the Turkish league’s No. 1 team. It’s worth noting that Jonquel Jones and Briann January, who both played in that game, are no longer with Mersin; January has retired (farewell and congrats on a great career!), and Jones is back in the United States. 

Much of Schio’s offense stems from Marina Mabrey’s pick-and-roll play and Rhyne Howard’s exploits as an off-ball mover. Their tandem shooting prowess from anywhere on the court makes Schio a challenging foe for any team on any given day.

Over their last five games:

  • Mabrey is averaging 19.2 ppg with 3.8 assists while canning 47.1% of her nearly seven triples per game. She’s been on fire of late.
  • Howard is averaging 16.2 ppg and 2.8 assists, shooting 40.5% from deep on 7.4 attempts from three per game. After a cold shooting starts to her season with Schio, Howard has found her rhythm.

Mersin has won five of their last six in Euro play since they lost to Schio. A Mersin win would even the clubs in the EuroLeague Group B standings, while what happens in the matchup between top-seeded Sopron (tied with Schio) and Avenida could create further waves in the upper echelon of the standings if Sopron were to lose.

ZVVZ USK Praha (8-3) vs. Fenerbahçe Alagoz Holding (9-2)

When: 1 pm EST Tuesday, January 31

Notable Players: (Praha) Brionna Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Temi Fagbenle, Maria Conde. (Fenerbahçe) Breanna Stewart, Emma Meesseman, Satou Sabally, Kayla McBride, Alina Iagupova, Kiah Stokes.

The clubs played one another for the first time on December 7, an 82–72 win for Turkey’s Fenerbahçe. Natasha Howard came up big, with 16 points, six boards, and a block; Howard is no longer with the team, having come back to the United States, but oh hey, Fenerbahçe is slotting in Breanna Stewart at the four now!

Upgrading from an All-Star to an MVP candidate mid-season is ridiculous. In four games with the Turkish club, Stewart averages 20 points per game, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 3.8 combined steals and blocks on the efficient play.

With the Dallas Wings slated to potentially play a starting frontcourt of Teaira McCowan and Natasha Howard at the five and four, respectively, keep a close eye on Satou Sabally in this game. Playing against a WNBA starting pair in Thomas and Jones for the Czech club, watching and evaluating Sabally at the three will be interesting, where she is likely to slot in for the Wings this coming season.

She’s been boiling from three of late, unsustainably so, but her volume (nearly five per game) is at a career mark, and that trend will be increasingly important when the W season comes around. Especially considering that Sabally didn’t play in the first matchup with Praha, it’ll be fun to see how they choose to defend her and Fenerbahçe’s array of talent when their star-studded frontcourt all share the floor.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Alina Iagupova. If you’ve never watched her play before or followed international basketball, you’re in for a treat.

Her change of pace is elite. She’s incredibly dynamic as a ball screen creator and unlocks a great deal of the scoring for this team with her gravity. Iagupova’s connection with McBride is a blast to watch as she has a knack for finding McBride as she weaves in and around screens to create openings.

With a win here, Fenerbahçe likely seals their place as the top seed out of Group A in the EuroLeague, but with a loss to Praha, they’ll be even in the standings coming out of this week, which opens up more possibilities in the remaining weeks of play.

Play Gaming Society’s free EuroLeague prediction game for an immersive fan experience. Make a prediction on Tuesday’s Euroleague slate before 11 am ET for a chance to win an all-inclusive trip to the AT&T WNBA All-Star in Las Vegas!

 WNBA reporter Mark Schindler writes a column on throughout the season and can be reached on Twitter at @MG_Schindler. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.