>> Illustration photo – Match of the 12th round of Group A of the European Women's Basketball League: USK Prague – Fenerbahce Istanbul, January 31, 2023, Prague. From left, Teja Oblaková from USK Prague and coach Natália Hejková.
Piraeus (Greece) – The USK Prague women's basketball players are waiting for the penultimate game in the regular part of the European League on Wednesday. In the 13th round, Olympiakos Piraeus wants to confirm their role as favorites and keep the second place in Group A. The team of coach Natália Hejková is already certain to advance to the quarterfinals and is fighting for the ninth win of the season without the injured María Conde and Barbora Wrzesińská. The duel will start from 16:00 CET.
Photogallery: European Women's Basketball Cups
“We are playing an opponent against whom we should confirm our quality. We must be concentrated and cannot afford to hesitate. It certainly makes a difference if we go to the playoffs from second, third or fourth place,” said Hejková in an interview with ČTK.
The women from Prague will try to build on their 95:63 home win in Greece in December. Olympiakos has won only one of 12 matches and is the worst team in the competition. Even if USK unexpectedly fails, the Czech champions cannot lose promotion to the top eight teams. Fourth-placed Polkowice and fifth-placed Bourges are losing one point, but they will face each other in a match in which one of them will also lose. And both teams have a worse mutual record with USK.
“Against Olympiakos, it will mainly be about our performance. It is an outsider in our group. They can surprise at times, but if the opponent shows strength, they will eventually fall,” said Hejková.
The main support of the Greek team is American pivot Megan Gustafson, who is the best scorer in the Euroleague with an average of 23.2 points. He also has 9.4 rebounds per game. “She is one of the stars of the Euroleague, but her role in the team is so obvious that she basically ends everything,” said Hejková. “The atmosphere will probably be intimate, because we play at five o'clock local time. This is very early by their standards. In addition, women's basketball is not as high as it was twenty years ago,” noted the Slovakian coach.
Both teams will return to the competition after a three-week representative break. USK got in the mood for the duel with clear league wins over Strakonice (118:32) and Chomutov (115:76). She will rely on the sixth best Euroleague scorer Alyssa Thomas or her American compatriot Brionna Jones, whose 37 points against Chomutov set a new high in this league season. USK is the second most productive team in the competition (80.3 points per game), the statistics of rebounds (43.6) and assists (24.1) even dominate.
The 16-time Czech champions believe that they can succeed even without the injured Conde , who injured her ankle in the last Euroleague loss against Fenerbahce Istanbul (66:73). “María is not traveling with us and may not be available until the next match against Bologna. Wrzesińská is still out. But Veronika Šípová has returned to us, who is starting to train and is already in contact,” added Hejková.