The Belgium women’s national basketball team upset European power Belarus 67-61 at home in Namur, Wallonia.
The scoring margin was close and the difference never went into double digits. But Belgium was in control of this game from start to finish.
Mystics forward Emma Meesseman scored just 11 points on 5 of 14 shooting. Despite her “off night,” she went into clutch mode when she made a three with 1:01 left in the game to give the Cats a 67-58 lead and seal the deal. Kim Mestdagh led the Belgians with 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting. For Belarus, center Anastasiya Verameyenka scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while guard Volha Ziuzkova scored 15 points.
Here’s what we learned tonight.
Meesseman may not have to do EVERYTHING for Belgium. That’s a good thing for them.
Emma Meesseman didn’t have a good shooting night. Since the Cats came into the qualifiers as an unranked team, you’d think that that could be enough to spell their doom.
Fortunately, Meesseman got the help she needed from other team members who we mentioned in our preview. Ann Wauters scored 10 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. And in the backcourt, Mestdagh came through by scoring 17 points and making three three pointers to keep the defense honest.
The Cats kept themselves in this game by taking care of the ball and forcing the Belarusians to turn over the ball like crazy.
The Cats lost the field goal percentage battle as the Belarusians shot 48.15 percent from the field while they only shot 41.54 percent themselves. The Belarusians also grabbed 40 rebounds compared to the Belgians’ 27.
Usually, that means that Belarus would have come out with a commanding victory. And on most nights, that probably would have happened.
But Belarus committed 22 turnovers, in part because of Belgian point guard Marjorie Carpreaux stealing the ball five times and Hanne Mestdagh stealing it another three. Even Meesseman stole the ball twice. I’m not exactly sure how many of those turnovers turned into Belgian points, but it was likely a good amount, more than the scoring margin of this contest.
In contrast to Belarus, Belgium committed just 11 turnovers and dished 21 assists. The Cats’ ability to disrupt the Belarusian offense AND be efficient on offense themselves proved to be key to winning this game.
Belarus respected the Belgium’s depth a bit more than we anticipated
Belarus’ five starters all played 32 or more minutes in this game. No one else on their team played more than 9 minutes. As for the Belgians, they were more rested as eight players played 14 or more minutes.
I don’t know much about either country’s roster. But it looks like Belarus was truly afraid of the Cats’ depth tonight after losing Yelena Leuchanka and Lindsey Harding, who could have flipped this game the other way.
Interesting Stat: This game was relatively free of free throws
Belarus didn’t make a single free throw until very late in the fourth quarter and made 2 of 5 attempts. Not good, but there were so few free throws. As for Belgium, they only made 4 of 6.
How does Belgium’s group look now?
After the win, Belgium moved into second place in Group G with five points, just one behind Belarus who gets one point with the loss.
Since the Belgians have one game left to play, they’re going to tie Belarus for first place at a minimum. And since they’ll have a 2-2 record against 1st through 3rd place teams (remember there’s no fourth team in their group), this game went a long way toward the Belgians punching their tickets to Tomas Satoransky’s house next June.
With this result, Poland will find it very hard to get in EuroBasket Women unless they beat Belgium. In that case, we’ll get to a situation where all three teams are tied in the point standings.
But after tonight, I’m pretty confident saying that Belgium will be checked in to the Czech Republic next June.
The Cats head to Poland next Wednesday to finish their slate of qualifier games at the Aqua Zdroj Arena in Wałbrzych. It is located in the western part of the country about six miles from its border with the Czech Republic. Gametime is at 2:15 p.m. ET.
The Polish hope to get revenge for a 100-63 loss they suffered in Namur last February. We’ll see what happens this time.