You may have been wondering how the Belgian women’s national team managed to upset the Belarusian women’s national team, 67-61 on Saturday. The highlight video above (via the women’s national team’s YouTube channel) gives us a glimpse of what happened.
I’ll preface the video saying that we don’t see many Meesseman highlights. The main reason why is because she had a relatively bad night with 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting. However, Meesseman came into this game as FIBA Europe’s leading scorer in the qualifiers, and the Belarusians made stopping her priority number one. To Belarus’ credit, they slowed her down quite a bit. But that’s when other Belgian players stepped up.
So with that in mind, here are some takeaways I have from watching the highlights:
Now you know why Meesseman has pass-happy instincts.
Belgium plays with solid ball movement on offense from start to finish. They also seem to be quite pass-happy. We have accused the Mystics to be pass-happy at times. I see Belgians are that way too. But their team seems to have the confidence that the ball will get to the right player when she is open, whether her name is Emma, Ann, Kim, or Antonia.
Meesseman wasn’t (too) flustered when the game wasn’t going her way
I’ve noticed multiple times in the video where Meesseman could have received the ball in the low post, but a guard shot a longer range shot and made it. I get that these are the highlights so of course, they’re going in.
But what I was looking at was Meesseman’s body language. She didn’t mind or sulk about it. Her cool demeanor throughout the game despite a down shooting performance was good. It’s also just in her DNA.
Can the Mystics sign Kim Mestdagh please?
Meesseman gets most of the talk on this site because she plays in Washington. The Belgian media is also hyping up Ann Wauters because of her resumé. But Kim Mestdagh led the Belgians in scoring in each of their last two games in the qualifiers. Mestdagh looked very comfortable out there, and she would be my player of the game last night.
Personally, I doubt she has the raw athleticism to make most WNBA team rosters. But the Mystics aren’t trying to play typical American basketball since their best player doesn’t play that game:
Meesse said, "I just pick my shots. Always going for shots -- that's American. I don't go for dumb shots." -- Pretty strong quote there.— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) November 19, 2016
And in light of that and other things, the Mystics are trying to accommodate that.
Since Mestdagh’s IQ and shooting ability are very good, I think the Mystics should give her a closer look, even if Belgium is in EuroBasket next year. Furthermore, Mestdagh has the best of both worlds in this sense: she knows the “Ieper Way” because coincidentally, she’s from Meesseman’s hometown. But she also played Division I college basketball in an above-average conference, so Mestdagh also knows the “American Way.”
This is a big freaking deal for Meesseman and the Belgian Cats.
In America, we often expect to see a superstar cry or show more emotion after big milestone wins. For example, Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James cried after winning the NBA Finals. John Wall has cried after dedicating games in friends’ memories. Meesseman on the other hand is very even-tempered.
Saturday was a different matter though after the final buzzer sounded. Meesseman looked visibly emotional after the Belgian win and was close to tears at a point toward the end of the video. She also tweeted this after the game.
and other players were also just as happy:
What a night beyond grateful to be a part of this team— Hanne Mestdagh (@HanneMestdagh) November 19, 2016
The Belgians’ top players also gave some reactions after their big win.
According to Sporza, a Dutch language Belgian sports network, Meesseman said, “This is a dream. We have a really good team. We deserved this all these years. Fantastic. Now, all of the emotions are coming. I’m very happy.”
Kim Mestdagh added similar thoughts, saying, “We are so happy. We knew this was the most important game [in qualifiers]. We have managed to succeed for each other. I have never played in EuroBasket.”
Wauters, who’s 36, hinted that she may not be there for EuroBasket. She said, “It was a hard and exciting game. [This win] shows that this team has maturity. Also, when it gets tough, we can still win the game. I find that important for a young team. I see that there’s room for us to improve. If I’m there for EuroBasket, that’s hard for me to say. It remains to be seen how I feel in half a year.”
As an American, I take it for granted that Team USA can skip FIBA Americas because they win the World Cup and the Olympics more often than not. In fact, it’s considered bad news if America has to be in FIBA Americas to begin with.
But for Belgium — a western European country that isn’t known for basketball AND doesn’t naturalize Americans like many of its Eastern Bloc, former Yugoslavian, and former Soviet counterparts — winning a game like this is a big freaking deal.
Belarus was a 2016 Olympic team and would have won the group if they won yesterday. Instead, they’ll be tied for first at best if Belgium loses on Wednesday to Poland. And as for the Belgians, they still have one more match to play before everything’s final. But things are looking on the up and up for them indeed.