UMMC Ekaterinburg head coach Olaf Lange must have heard my sad plea for 20 minutes off the bench for Emma Meesseman. She played 17 minutes for 4 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, and was part of a rock-solid bench performance that helped get UMMC by Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray, with a win by twenty, 86-66, in front of the home crowd of 5,200 rowdy fans at DIVS arena.
Meesseman's Belgian National teammate, Ann Wauters, had a very good game once again for Galatasaray, with 12 points on 83 percent shooting, 3 rebounds and an assist in 25 minutes. The hero of Game 2, Indiana Fever post, Lynetta Kizer, however, was held to 6 points and 8 rebounds on 25 percent shooting, whereas Taurasi and Griner showed up to combine for 40 points and 11 rebounds, shooting over 50%, playing like their billing would have us believe.
Obviously, had they lost, it would not have been on Meesseman. But having won, it sets up a very interesting showdown with ZVVZ USK Praha, and Mystics backup center Kia Vaughn. They are the defending champions -- Vaughn also happens to be last year's MVP as well -- and this is a rematch of last year's Final.
Here are some players of note on USK Praha besides Vaughn: Candice Dupree (PHX), Sonja Petrovic (PHX), Laia Palau (ESP, 7 assists/p/g), Marta Xargay (PHX) and they also have a veritable who's who of very good National team players from the Czech Republic, ranked 5th in the world behind France, Spain, Australia and the US, respectively. Any way you slice it, the Czechs have a good team with a chip on their shoulder.
But I am sure that Taurasi and company were embarrassed by that loss in 2015 and have a LOT more to lose if they do not make it back to the Final and win this year. UMMC paid Taurasi a bunch of money to bring the SuperCup championship back to Ekaterinburg. Both teams definitely have something to prove. Here is the schedule from UMMC's website:
The three-game Semi-final series with USK Praha starts on April 15, 2016.
The five-game Championship series starts on April 30th and can run until May 8th, since either UMMC or USK Praha will get that far.
The WNBA season begins on May 16th. There are potentially 13 games between now and then (including a couple non-playoff games), so I would like Emma Meesseman to average 20 minutes a game. The Mystics are going to need her at more than 50 percent strength if she has one week off between leagues (which is ridiculous).
It took Vaughn almost six weeks to recover after her EuroLeague MVP performance last year, experiencing 'concussion' like symptoms during the first half of the WNBA season. Thankfully, Dolson picked up the slack and she hasn't looked back.
I know Meesseman will be 23 in May, but injuries definitely can occur when you play competitively twelve months a year. Let's hope it does not come to that.
PS: Here is a terrific backstory on UMMC Eka super-coaches Olaf Lange and Sandy Brondello.