On this Friday of Emma Meesseman week, we will recap Thursday’s game between Belgium and Puerto Rico, where the Cats dominated from start to finish in a 98-65 win. To check out the rest of our pieces this week, click on the link to our stream below the article.
It isn’t often when the United States hosts a FIBA basketball game between two national teams for something besides a friendly tournament, largely because the USA is consistently ranked No. 1 in women’s basketball. And it’s even less often when Washington, D.C. gets to host something like this, especially when the games count for something, especially for a WNBA star player like Meesseman, who played for the Mystics from 2013-20.
That alone is why Diamond Holton and I went to the Entertainment and Sports Arena yesterday. We have watched the Belgian Cats play on YouTube streams or on TV in Women’s EuroBasket, the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, or the 2020 Olympics. But it’s not the same as watching them in person, in our hometown and in the arena where Meesseman delivered the DMV a WNBA.championship in 2019.
I won’t speak for Diamond, but it felt like things were coming full circle to me. Emma’s here, and we’re here. It just felt ... right to be at ESA to see her, one last time where we can root for her and her national team as opposed to feeling conflicted that a certain outcome would negatively impact the Mystics. After all, she is reportedly going to the Chicago Sky. I’ll get to that later in this piece.
The Cats dominated with a deadly passing, rebounding and three point attack
Belgium dominated from start to finish in this game and the talent disparity was evident throughout. The Cats showed their dominance by passing the ball effectively to the open woman for shots or easy layups, dishing 27 total assists compared to the Puerto Ricans who did not move the ball as effectively had six assists total.
Out of those 27 assists, it was none other than Meesseman herself who co-led in that department with 7 along with forward Antonia Delaere. In fact, Meesseman nearly had a triple double with 19 points and 7 rebounds to go along with those 7 assists.
Next, Belgium grabbed 41 rebounds compared to Puerto Rico’s 21. The Cats’ players were noticeably bigger from their guards to posts. Belgium center Kyara Linskens DOMINATED physically. She led the team in scoring with 27 points and was often a target of Meesseman’s passes along with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Linskens would have had more points and rebounds if she wasn’t in foul trouble in the second half. She scored 20 of those points in the first half.
Correction she had 20 lol https://t.co/77qojJ7NOx— Diamond Minnea (@_PensAndWords_) February 10, 2022
Also, the Cats also dominated beyond the arc where they shot 11-of-21 from the three point line. Puerto Rico? Just 2-of-9. Meesseman made all three of her long range shots.
For Puerto Rico, Los Angeles Sparks guard Arella Guirantes led with 25 points and 5 rebounds while Fauquier County, Va. native Jazmon Gwathmey added 18.
Some more shoutouts to the Cats
While we were watching Belgium play, Diamond and I were impressed with some of their players besides Meesseman of course. To be clear, we came to see Meesseman first and foremost. But the Cats wouldn’t be the Cats without the performances of these players:
- Julie Allemand — The soon-to-be Chicago Sky guard scored 10 points and dished 4 assists yesterday along with 5 steals. This wasn’t her best performance in a Belgian uniform, but Allemand still had some moments where she kept the defense honest with her two made threes.
- Hind Ben Abdelkader — The former WNBA guard scored 16 points off the bench and shot 4-of-6 from the three point line. Ben Abdelkader recently came back from knee surgery, which may be why she wasn’t in the 2020 Olympics. Anyway, I’d like to see Ben Abdelkader get more time on the national team because she has been a prolific scorer on her European teams in recent years.
- Maxuella Lispwa Mbaka — The Castors Braine forward was part of Belgium’s U19 World Cup squad where she was one of their foundational players. On this Cats squad, she still made an impact off the bench with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a couple of quick layups, one off a steal. She’s just 21 years old this year, so she could be someone to watch for on a WNBA roster in the future.
Meesseman considers D.C. “her heart”
After the game, Jenn Hatfield of The Next asked Meesseman about her WNBA plans, given that she is expected to play for the Sky. While Meesseman refused to comment on that specifically, she did appreciate Washington fans, saying that “they’re my heart. ... I really hope that relationship will stay for the rest of my career and my life.”
(1/3) At @FIBAWC Qualifiers today, I asked @EmmaMeesseman if she could comment on her #WNBA plans. "I kind of don't want to," she said, "because this is the Belgian national team right now & we have this major goal first. So after this week I'm open, but not yet." @TheNextHoops— Jenn Hatfield (she/her) (@jennhatfield1) February 11, 2022
Next up for the Belgian Cats: Team USA
Belgium plays the USA Basketball women’s national team at 6:30 p.m. ET today at ESA. The Cats won’t be favored this time, but I wouldn’t expect to see them get blown out by 30 points either.
On the note of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup qualifiers, I will write a recap of today’s game, but it will be hosted on Swish Appeal, in part so I don’t duplicate efforts.
Hopefully, we’ll see Ariel Atkins get some significant time for the Americans, who look to figure out their roster for the World Cup. These games are friendlies for the Americans because they have already qualified.
As for the Cats, they are now very close to getting their second World Cup berth with their last game coming on Sunday against Russia in the Dominican Republic.