When you’re a professional basketball player like Emma Meesseman, you’re supposed to treat every game the same. She’s level-headed, so that is usually the case.
But at the same time, she’s human. Some games mean a little more than others. So consider this:
- There are some games that a player pencils in because it’s a rival.
- There are some games a player pencils in because they are played in his or her hometown.
- And there are some games that a player pencils in so he or she can send a message, explicitly or implicitly.
That’s what Saturday’s friendly between Meesseman’s Belgium national team and the Netherlands was. Emma Meesseman (probably) penciled in Saturday’s friendly for all three of those above reasons.
First, the Netherlands is Belgium’s biggest rival, and we touched on many things Belgians and Dutch people share in our preview. Second, the game was in Ieper, her hometown AND IN THE SAME GYM WHERE SHE PLAYED AS A KID. And third, Meesseman had a chance to send a message to folks who don’t think she’s “all that.”
I’m getting carried away. Who won?
As you might have expected, Belgium did. And it was by a HUGE margin. The Belgian Cats got a 95-38 win over the Dutch Orange Angels. Meesseman scored 28 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and added two steals. Her partner-in-crime and fellow Ieper resident Kim Mestdagh shot 6 of 8 from the field for 16 points, while Ann Wauters scored 14 points in just 11 minutes.
For the Netherlands, New Mexico Lobos post Richelle van der Keijl scored 12 points. She was the only Dutch player to score in double figures.
I’ll let the box score speak for itself. But in short, Belgium beat the living crap out of their northern neighbors in their last tune up before EuroBasket Women next week.
In regard to the game itself, I think everyone except some proud Dutchmen knew that Belgium was winning this game regardless. But we got to see Meesseman show something we haven’t in D.C. — her killer instinct.
Meesseman dominated the Dutch in the fourth quarter when she clearly didn’t have to
In the fourth quarter, you would expect that Belgium would play all of their bench players while the Netherlands would play theirs in a glorified game of pick up. Inevitably, you’d expect to see the Dutch close in on the 55 point deficit they had to start the fourth quarter. And to the Dutch’s credit, they gradually went on an 8-0 run in the first three minutes or so.
But again. This is the Netherlands. This game is in Ieper. And there are some critics in D.C. who don’t think she has the desire to just rub it in on another team. So ... Meesseman came back on the floor with just over six minutes left. After that, she promptly went on a 6-0 run by herself where she made three consecutive shots over the next three minutes. The Dutch had no answer for her turnaround jumpers. And when they left her open, Meesseman would find her way for a quick layup before they knew it.
Meesseman ultimately scored two more buckets for a total of 10 points in the fourth quarter in a span of about four minutes. From a coaching standpoint, there was no need for her to be on the floor in the closing minutes of a game where the outcome was not in doubt. And you can call Meesseman’s presence and scoring in this period unsportsmanlike.
But try saying that to the Belgians, who played a rivalry game. And try saying that to Meesseman, who’s playing in front of her hometown fans, all of whom want to see her on the floor.
Meesseman’s fourth quarter shows us why Mystics fans must appreciate her more
Last Tuesday, Lindsay Gibbs of Summitt Hoops wrote a column and preview of the Mystics’ game against the Wings. The headline of her article was “How are the Mystics winning without Emma Meesseman?”
To be fair to Gibbs, she never implied that Washington was doing better without Meesseman. In her analysis, the Mystics’ commitment to rebounding (third in rebounding percentage) and controlling their turnovers (second lowest TOV%) has played a major part toward their five-game winning streak, which included two wins against the Sky, a 78-76 win over the Sun, a 78-72 win over the Dream, and the 101-89 win over the Wings which happened after her piece.
What Gibbs was going after was this. The Mystics were winning games because they stuck to the fundamentals, and gritting out wins instead of blowing teams out. Three of the wins in their win streak were without Meesseman. And with the exception of the Wings game last Tuesday, they didn’t win any game by double digits. Bottom line, the Mystics are fortunate to be 6-3 at this point of the season without Meesseman.
Of course, I’d love to see the Mystics win every game whether Meesseman is playing or not. But don’t simply assume that a winning Mystics team makes her expendable or insinuate that she should play behind Tianna Hawkins or Krystal Thomas after EuroBasket Women is over.
Meesseman isn’t one to showboat her skills and talk about herself, unlike most American basketball players of her caliber. But her performance today, especially in the fourth quarter subtly reminded us why the Mystics could have used her in yesterday’s loss to the Lynx. And it also shows us that she’s ready to take things up a notch when her number’s called like it was against the Dutch earlier today.
Yes, the Mystics are Elena Delle Donne’s team now. But Meesseman’s performance in all of these friendlies also show us that she can dominate like the best of them as well. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of that once she returns to D.C.