The biggest news of the opening day of the EuroLeague Final Eight came before powers UMMC Ekaterinburg and Ros Casares Valencia tipped off. During pregame warmups, Storm point guard Sue Bird suffered an injury to her nose and was taken to a nearby hospital, where X-rays confirmed a break. Bird, who previously broke her nose during the 2004 Playoffs and in 2005, told Storm Head Coach Brian Agler that she will be back on the court for Thursday’s second game of group play wearing a protective facemask.
Without their floor leader, Ekaterinburg struggled on offense against Valencia, scoring just 20 points in the first half of a 62-49 loss. UMMC had just nine assists against 25 turnovers. Even with Bird, the deep Ros Casares squad would have been a challenge. Lauren Jackson’s 12 points led five Valencia players with at least eight. She added six rebounds. Ann Wauters scored 10 points before leaving after a collision with Maria Stepanova that required four stitches above her nose. Wauters is fine and will play tomorrow.
In the other game in Group B, Ewelina Kobryn and Wisla Can-Pack Krakow dropped a 77-70 decision to Sparta&K Moscow Region. Wisla doubled up Sparta&K in the first quarter, 20-10, but Sparta&K rallied to take the lead heading into the fourth quarter and opened the final period with a 10-0 run to take control of the game. Kobryn had 19 points on 9-of-15 shooting, plus five boards. Sparta&K had more depth, getting 15 points and nine rebounds from Candice Dupree, 16 points from Becky Hammon and 14 from Seimone Augustus.
Over in Group A, Rivas Ecopolis stunned host Galatasaray, 75-68, despite 21 points apiece from Tina Charles and Diana Taurasi. Rivas held a 14-4 advantage on the offensive glass and got 19 points and 13 rebounds from Asjha Jones. The other team from the host country, Fenerbahce, cruised to a 75-58 win over Beretta-Famila Schio, behind 24 points and six boards by Penny Taylor.
The action will continue tomorrow in Istanbul with Bird, and we hope you’ll join us in wishing her a speedy recovery from the injury.