FIBA: Mavunga leading BC Polkowice to success in EuroLeague Women

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Week 6 of the 2022-23 EuroLeague Women season tips-off on Wednesday, Dec. 14 with an eight-game slate featuring some of the top basketball talent in the world. FIBA has tabbed an afternoon game between Polish club BC Polkowice (4-1) and French club Tango Bourges Basket (3-2) as the game of the week.

While Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding (Turkey) and ZVVZ USK Praha (Czech Republic) entered the competition considered the favorites to win Group A, through five weeks it’s Polkowice that sits atop the group standings. The play of forward Stephanie Mavunga, in particular, stands out for Polkowice; in her second season with the club, Mavunga is putting up eye-popping numbers, averaging 18.4 points and 14.8 rebounds per game, the latter of which leads the competition. She also currently ranks third in EuroLeague Women in FIBA’s efficiency per game metric (25.8).

Polkowice has already beaten both Fenerbahçe and Praha once, helping its own potential playoff seeding down the road, and recently added guard Erica Wheeler to its roster, giving the club another ball handler whose playmaking will be key if it’s going to sustain its early-season success. The individual matchup between Wheeler and Yvonne Anderson will be one to watch on Wednesday; Anderson, another veteran playing perhaps the best ball of her international career (17.2 points, 3.2 assists and 2.4 steals per game) will need to have a big game if Bourges is to hang with Polkowice’s high-powered offense.

Elsewhere, Rhyne Howard and Marina Mabrey will try to lead Italian club Beretta Famila Schio to its third-straight win, while Arella Guirantes and Hungarian club DVTK HUN-Therm will aim for another upset of a highly-favored team. The action begins at 11 a.m. ET with games tipping off through the morning and afternoon; you can catch them live and for free on FIBA’s EuroLeague Women YouTube channel.

Wednesday, December 14

CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld (2-3) vs. Spar Girona (3-2)

When: 11 a.m. ET

Where: Servet Tazegül Spor Salonu, Mersin

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Jonquel Jones, Chelsea Gray, DeWanna Bonner, Tiffany Hayes, Briann January (CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld); Brittney Sykes, Rebekah Gardner, Marianna Tolo, Shay Murphy (Spar Girona)

Matchup details: Both Mersin and Girona are coming off disappointing losses in Week 5, though given the levels of talent and preseason expectations, the overall sense of urgency is probably higher for Mersin. Girona eagerly awaits the debut of its prized transfer Sykes, who will presumably be given a hefty role on both ends of the floor; Mersin, however, has no such excuse, having waited a few weeks for its imports to arrive but is now sitting at full strength.

Atomerőmű KSC Szekszárd (2-3) vs. Virtus Segafredo Bologna (2-3)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Szekszárd Városi Sportcsarnok, Szekszárd

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Victoria Vivians, Ruthy Hebard, Cyesha Goree, Sydney Wallace (Atomerőmű KSC Szekszárd); Cheyenne Parker, Iliana Rupert, Cecilia Zandalasini, Kitija Laksa (Virtus Segafredo Bologna)

Matchup details: Szekszárd hasn’t gone on a streak of any kind thus far, though the club is going to need to start playing better defense (81.8 points allowed per game; most in EuroLeague Women) if it’s going to get back to .500 this week. We’ve come to expect big performances from Goree (14.2 points and seven rebounds per game) and Vivians (19.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game), but the key to a Szekszárd victory may lie in the hands of Wallace, who has struggled shooting the ball (29.5 percent) to this point. She’ll have a tough assignment on the perimeter against Laksa and Zandalasini, who combine to average 26.2 points per game.

ZVVZ USK Praha (3-2) vs. Olympiacós SFP (0-5)

When: 1 p.m. ET

Where: Královka Arena, Prague

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Maria Conde, Temi Fagbenle, Valériane Vukosavljević (ZVVZ USK Praha); Megan Gustafson, Kylee Shook (Olympiacós SFP)

Matchup details: On paper, this is probably the biggest mismatch of the week. Through five weeks, Praha boasts the competition’s second-best offense (78 points per game) while Olympiacós has its second-worst defense (80.4 points allowed per game). Gustafson continues to score at an absurdly high rate, leading EuroLeague Women with 26.3 points per game, but with Jones and Fagbenle, Praha has plenty of size on the interior to throw at her; meanwhile, there’s simply no answer for Thomas, though Olympiacós certainly isn’t alone in that regard. The veteran forward is currently averaging 21.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 3.6 steals per game, and will likely be a favorite for group phase MVP.

Beretta Famila Schio (4-1) vs. Kangoeroes Mechelen (1-4)

When: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Palazzetto Livio Romare, Schio

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Rhyne Howard, Marina Mabrey, Amanda Zahui B., Astou Ndour-Fall, Kim Mestdagh (Beretta Famila Schio); Morgan Bertsch, Lisa Berkani, Ziomara Morrison (Kangoeroes Mechelen)

Matchup details: Schio is among the hottest teams in EuroLeague Women, having now won three consecutive games and leading Group B in scoring (75.6 points per game). As expected, Mabrey and Howard have formed a potent duo on the perimeter, averaging a combined 29.4 points per game, and the club is also getting solid contributions from forward Jasmine Keys, who is nearly averaging a double-double (9.6 points and nine rebounds per game). Mechelen has adept scorers in Bertsch (15.4 points per game) and Morrison (16.2 points per game), but ranks 15th in the competition in both rebounds and assists per game — peripheral areas that Schio will have a considerable advantage in.

Basket Landes (1-4) vs. Sopron Basket (3-2)

When: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Espace François Mitterrand, Mont-de-Marsan

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Marine Fauthoux, Regan Magarity, Celine Dumerc (Basket Landes); Ezi Magbegor, Yvonne Turner, Jelena Brooks (Sopron Basket)

Matchup details: Landes finally got in the win column last week against Mechelen and now has a chance to make it two in a row against Sopron, which suddenly looks the most vulnerable it’s been in years. The defending EuroLeague Women champs scored the fewest points of any team last week (53) and, though defense has historically been the Hungarian club’s identity, the jury is out on whether it will have enough scoring to repeat its recent success. Brooks currently leads Sopron in scoring at 14.8 points per game but is knocking down only 19 percent of her 3-point attempts; she and Turner will be expected to provide more of a scoring punch as the season progresses.

Tango Bourges Basket (3-2) vs. BC Polkowice (4-1)

When: 2 p.m. ET

Where: Palais des Sports du Prado, Bourges

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Yvonne Anderson, Kayla Alexander (Tango Bourges Basket); Stephanie Mavunga, Erica Wheeler, Artemis Spanou, Weronika Gajda (BC Polkowice)

Matchup details: Mavunga gets the lion’s share of the attention for Polkowice, but she’s far from the club’s only significant contributor. As a team, Polkowice is shooting 40.6 percent on 3-pointers, and is third in the competition in assists per game (20). Bourges doesn’t have that kind of offensive firepower, but it does have one of the competition’s more productive frontcourt players in Alexander (11.2 points and 11 rebounds per game) and ranks second in EuroLeague Women in steals per game (10.8), so we’ll see if the French club can leverage those advantages and deal Polkowice its second loss in group play.

Valencia Basket Club (3-2) vs. Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding (3-2)

When: 2 p.m. ET

Where: Pabellón Municipal Fuente de San Luis, Valencia

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Lauren Cox, Marie Gülich, Raquel Carrera, Leticia Romero, Alba Torrens (Valencia Basket Club); Natasha Howard, Emma Meesseman, Kayla McBride, Alina Iagupova, Kiah Stokes, Olivia Epoupa (Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding)

Matchup details: Fenerbahçe has officially put its disappointing start to the season in the rearview mirror, a big win over Praha its latest in a three-game winning streak. The Turkish club is currently leading EuroLeague Women in scoring (81.8 points per game) despite averaging only 4.8 treys; conversely, Valencia has been around the middle of the pack in per-game scoring, but is actually shooting better from 3-point range (43.1 percent) than on 2-pointers (42.6 percent). The hot outside shooting will need to continue for the Spanish club if it’s going to overcome Fenerbahçe’s well-rounded attack.

Perfumerias Avenida (4-1) vs. DVTK HUN-Therm (2-3)

When: 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: Pabellón Municipal Würzburg, Salamanca

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Bridget Carleton, Maite Cazorla, Aleksandra Crvendakić (Perfumerias Avenida); Arella Guirantes, Cheridene Green (DVTK HUN-Therm)

Matchup details: Can DVTK slay another giant? The Hungarian club earned its second victory of the season last week in upset fashion, holding Girona to just 58 points. The door is open for another such performance against Avenida, which recently parted ways with forward Erica McCall; Avenida, however, has embraced the challenge of losing talent early in the season and is currently tied with Schio for the best record in Group B. The individual matchup between Carleton and Guirantes will be a good one to watch as this game brings up the end of Week 6’s schedule.

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