WNBL 2014/15: Round 10 Preview

There's more top-4 match-ups in Round 10 of the WNBL, while teams positioned lower on the ladder are slowly closing the gap between the top-four and bottom-four. With this week being the last before the Christmas break, teams will be looking to enter the mid-way point of the season on a winning high.

Adelaide Lightning vs University of Canberra Capitals

Friday 19th December - 5PM (local time)

The Adelaide losing streak has extended to eight straight games, while the Capitals have lost two in a row to top-four sides Townsville and Melbourne. Canberra need the win to stay in touch with a potential top-four placing, while Adelaide simply need to win to end the funk, and to slightly make coach Jeremi Moule's hot seat slightly less "hotter".

After having four games straight on the road, Adelaide's first home game in three weeks was largely disappointing in a 14-point loss to the Melbourne Boomers. A key aspect to the loss with the Lightning's inability to make free throws. They only shot 50% from the line, missing the opportunity for six key points while Melbourne scored nine extra. For Adelaide to end the funk, they need to do the supposedly simple things well.

Abby Bishop is amazing. In her last three games, Bishop has astronomical figures of 30 points and 11.3 rebounds in this time period. The Capitals experiencing success will be heavily reliant on Bishop and her capabilities in shooting the basketball.

However all good things must come to an end, and there is plenty of doubt that Bishop will put 30 points on Laura Hodges, Emma Langford and former teammate Alex Bunton. Instead, look for former Adelaide guard Steph Talbot to assume the majority of the scoring load. Talbot was terrific three weeks ago against the Lightning, with 16 points and 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Talbot will deliver the knockout blow to the Lightning, who are already left standing on one strained leg.

Canberra should come in and produce a solid away win.

University of Canberra by 9

Bendigo Spirit vs Sydney Uni Flames

Friday 19th December - 7:30PM (local time)

Photo Credit: Geoff Tripp

In what will be game of the week, perennial powerhouse Bendigo play host to a Sydney team that have lost three straight, but still remain in the top-4. Bendigo are right on Townsville's heels for first position in the league, a half game out whereas Sydney are in fourth, with Dandenong a game and half behind.

Bendigo have already had Sydney's measure this season, defeating the Flames 85-74 in Round 8. In this game, Belinda Snell had her famous 41 point appearance. Sydney must learn from it's mistakes in guarding Snell previously to pull out the victory, this time away from home.

Snell is extremely tough to defend, due to her ability to finish from anywhere on the court. She's a capable outside shooter, can pull up in mid-range and finish well on the inside. The Flames will have a difficult job in attempting to limit her influence, especially in front of a passionate home Bendigo crowd.

As for Bendigo, it's going to take a full team effort to pull out the victory. This should come pretty easy for the Spirit, who are laden with depth that posses impeccable chemistry with each other. They've got to expect that Belinda Snell will be heavily guarded, so others will need to pick up their scoring games.

Kelsey Griffin has done this consistently through the year, with four 20-point games in her last five appearances, however at least one of Sara Blicavs, Kelly Wilson or Gabe Richards will be required to put up at near 15 points, as Sydney is one of the league's highest scoring teams, who've still managed to score 79 points per game throughout their losing streak.

Bendigo by 1

Dandenong Rangers vs Sydney Uni Flames

Saturday 20th December - 3PM (local time)

The televised game on ABC for the week is sure to be another great one, with an incredible amount of talent on the floor. Penny Taylor, Cappie Pondextor, Katie-Rae Ebzery and Leilani Mitchell headline the talent that'll be shown to a nationwide audience that'll be voting for a new television deal with their eyeballs.

Dandenong's season has been below their lofty expectations to date, however a big win against a top-four side will provide momentum leading into the second stage of the season. Penny Taylor has provided the Rangers with a second wind, going 4-3 in this stretch of games. Taylor quest for a finals berth for Dandenong will be made undeniably easier by knocking off their closest competitor.

Her match-up with Leilani Mitchell will be impactful on how the game plays out on the scoreboard. Both guards are familiar with each other through the Opals system, where both played large roles in helping the Australian team to a bronze medal. I expect a shoot-out much similar to Taylor's one last week with Deanna Smith, where both will put up huge scoring games.

Sydney have gone down to every other team in the top-4 on the trot, placing doubt as to whether they can truly compete with the best. The Flames now have the opportunity to show that they are deserving of a top-4 placing by knocking off the 5th team.

For this to happen, Sydney have to crack down on defense. Over their last three games, the Flames are allowing opponents to score 85 points per outing. To earn victory, the Flames have to limit the Rangers to under 75 points, a difficult task to do, as excluding the Ranger game against Townsville, Dandenong are averaging 87.5 points per contest.

Sydney are on a back-to-back, and with a game the night before, tired legs may make an impact here. Regardless, this should be a tight contest.

Dandenong by 4

West Coast Waves vs University of Canberra Capitals

Saturday 20th December - 6:30PM (local time)

West Coast and Canberra are both currently tied on the ladder, while both are also in the midst of losing streaks. In this battle between the sixth and seventh sides on the ladder, somethings got to give.

West Coast have lost their last four, and apart from the blowout loss to Townsville, they've been competitive in the other three, two losses to Dandenong and one to Melbourne. In each game there's been one consistent correlation in all the losses, they've been outdone in field goal percentage in all of them.

The Waves need to find better, open looks when shooting the ball. Because of the opponent this week, most shots will come from the outside, as Abby Bishop is too much of a match-up difficulty on the inside. Guards Lindsey Moore and Sarah Graham especially need to pick-up these percentages, as they've regularly fallen victim to bad shooting nights.

For West Coast to win, they've got to outshoot the University of Canberra Capitals.

Canberra meanwhile, might as well pass the ball to Abby. She's proven she can take it to anybody, while it can be argued that she's a top-3 player in the competition. Canberra have a fantastic opportunity to end the losing streak, and it'll be done if it isn't just the Bishop show.

Hannah Zavecz, Jess Bibby and Kirsten Veal are all key players for the Capitals, and if Canberra wants to get it done by the end of the season, it'll be a huge team effort that does it.

It's a coinflip in this one.

University of Canberra by 2

Townsville Fire vs Melbourne Boomers

Saturday 20th December - 7PM (local time)

Is there any better way to enter the Christmas break? We all might as well view this game as an early Christmas present for those lucky enough to witness this encounter between two of the nation's better teams. Townsville want to remain in first place leading into the break, while Melbourne aim to limit the gap between them and a top-2 placing.

Cayla Francis and Suzy Batkovic have proven themselves to be the best duo in the WNBL, and are sure to cause the Boomers plenty of problems. When these two teams last played, Melbourne were in a bad place. Batkovic and Francis only played 26 minutes each, yet in that time they scored 16 and 17 points respectively.

Batkovic and Francis both impact the game immensely in the short period of time they're on the floor, and will be sure to do the same as they play Melbourne again, who sometimes struggle to guard the interior. Rachael McCully should be able to pad her stats with Batkovic and Francis taking it to the Boomers.

Photo Credit: Geoff Tripp

When Melbourne last played the Fire, Rebecca Allen had 0 points, Nat Burton had 2 points, while Olivia Thompson only scored 4. With the ability that each player has, scoring so little is completely unacceptable, and Guy Molloy should use this as motivation to produce the best from these three.

Molloy knows what he'll get out of his other two starters Bec Cole and Tess Madgen every week, and got the required performance from these two last game. For victory, Allen, Thompson and Burton need to take it upon themselves to be more prominent in their roles. Doing so against the best in the competition will prove that Melbourne are more than just fodder for the finals, but true contenders.

Townsville by 5