As Washington Mystics fans, we are interested in how veteran forward Emma Meesseman does for Belgium and how signee Klara Lundquist does for Sweden in Women’s EuroBasket. Both teams are finished with their first games, so let’s see where they are at this point.
Belgium vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina final score: Nikolina Babic scores 30 points to shock the Cats, 70-55
What a difference four years makes. Four years ago, Belgium was the underdog whom very few people thought would have a chance to do much in a EuroBasket.
Now, Belgium is one of the medal contenders in this competition. They still are medal contenders after this game and I’ll get to why later. But they got blown out 70-55 earlier this afternoon in Strasbourg, France by the team that may just have the ingredients to be like ... they were four years ago given that they came in as underdogs.
Let me start this recap by saying that I expected the match of the game to be between Meesseman and Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones, who naturalized as a Bosnian last year, and is a WNBA MVP contender where she is averaging 21.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
You would expect in this loss that Jones would have bullied Meesseman and had a double-double while Meesseman would have had an off-game. But ... you’re wrong actually.
Meesseman played the way we’ve expected from her back in 2019 when the Mystics won a championship. She scored 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished 5 assists, and looked more like Jonquel Jones for most of this game than the real-life Jonquel Jones to be quite honest with you. Jones had the off-game, scoring 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting and dishing 6 turnovers. To be fair, she grabbed 17 rebounds. But my point is, don’t blame Meesseman for this loss.
This game’s scoring was decided by the guard play, but also Meesseman’s lack of shooting in the last three minutes which I’ll get to later. Belgium’s starting backcourt of Indiana Fever guard Julie Allemand and Mystics alum Kim Mestdagh weren’t so efficient, especially from three. Allemand shot just 1-of-8 from deep and Mestdagh was 4-of-21 from the field, 2-of-12 from three.
For the Bosnians, Nikolina Babic was their savior. The 26-year-old guard scored 23 points, shot 9-of-10 from the field and made 5-of-6 threes. So let’s get to how this game became ugly.
Belgium was never on a roll in this game, falling to an early 19-11 deficit and never led at any point in the game. The Belgians were able to head to halftime with a 30-28 deficit and tied the game 53-all with 5:08 left in the fourth quarter. But the Bosnians made a 9-0 run all off of threes (the first by Andjela Delic and the next two by Babic) while Belgium remained cold.
Allemand made the last shot for Belgium with 3:07 left. From there Belgium missed all of their shots. You would expect Allemand and Mestdagh to shoot threes (and they attempted five threes, all clanks) to lead a comeback. But Belgium also had a 32-24 advantage with points in the paint. Meesseman only took ONE shot in the last three minutes and three total in the fourth quarter.
Bottom line, she needed to shoot the ball more, and they lost this game due to a combination of her lack of stepping up in the spotlight and also coaching. Head Coach Philip Mestdagh should have demanded that Meesseman get more touches late, and get Meesseman to draw fouls for baskets, even though the latter isn’t exactly her type of game, whether in the WNBA or in Europe.
The Belgian Cats may not have had much experience on the continental or the world stage compared to a team like France or Spain. But they are still one of the most talented teams in Europe in part because of their past successes and that there’s been little turnover on the roster, besides Ann Wauters taking time off and Jana Raman who was injured due to a broken hand while traveling to EuroBasket. This team also knows each other about as well as anyone else, so I was very disappointed to see how this game ended.
Belgium is back tomorrow against Slovenia at 9 a.m. ET. They must win this game to keep their hopes up for an automatic quarterfinals berth.
Sweden vs. Slovakia final score: Swedes dominate from start to finish in 74-57 win
Frida Eldebrink scored 17 points and dished 7 assists to lead Sweden to a key win over the Slovenians on Monday afternoon in Valencia, Spain. Sweden took advantage of an early 20-11 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, though the Slovenians cut the deficit back after losing by as many as 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Lundquist is one of the younger players on Sweden’s team and came off the bench, scoring 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting including 1-of-2 from three. She also added two assists and three rebounds.
For the Slovakians, Ivana Jakubcova led with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Sweden will be back in action tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET when they play co-host Spain, who like Belgium is one of the favorites.