Efes Pilsen registered its third consecutive win in Group B by edging Armani Jeans 73-76 in Milano, Italy on Wednesday night. Efes improved to 6-3 and will at least tie for the third place in this group at the end of this round. Meanwhile, Milano dropped to 2-7 and needs a major turnaround in 2008 to reach the Top 16. Kenny Gregory paced the winners with 20 points on 5-for-6 three-pointers. Scoonie Penn added 15 and 6 assists, Drew Nicholas had 14 while Andre Hutson got 10 for Efes. Dusan Vukcevic had 16 points for Milano, Travis Watson added 13 and Mindaugas Katelynas 11 for the hosts. Milano led 14-12 late in the first quarter but Gregory and Nicholas added allowed Efes to get a 14-16 edge after 10 minutes. Loren Woods and Ermal Kuqo stepped up in the second quarter to keep Efes ahead, 34-36, at halftime. Penn had been scoreless in the firs thalf, but had 9 points in the third quarter. Meanwhile, a big triple by Nicholas boosted the guests' lead to 54-61 after 30 minutes. Penn and Nicholas allowed Efes to get a 62-72 lead with 3 minutes to go, enough to seal the outcome.
Melvin Booker opened the scoring with a mid-range jumper, as Efes needed more than 2 minutes to find the way to the basket. Meanwhile, Travis Watson shined with a power dunk to give Milano a 4-0 lead. Hutson stepped up with free throws that Danilo Gallinari erased with a left-handed layup. Milano had not allowed any easy shots but Nicholas buried a triple coming off a screen. Gregory also stroke from downtown to give the guests their first lead, 6-8. Pietro Aradori made free throws but Gregory fired in another three-pointer and by the time Kerem Gonlum made a free throws, Efes had a 8-12 lead. Casey Shaw shined with a second-chance basket that Booker followed with free throws to tie the game at 12-12. Gallinari capped a 6-0 run with a big basket that put Milano back ahead, 14-12. Efes had started to power the offensive board but Milano had readjusted its defense. Efes missed 5 consecutive shots until Gregory fired in his third three-pointer. Even with that, Nicholas drew a foul and made a free throw that allowed Efes to get a 14-16 edge at the end of the first quarter.
Ansu Sesay provided a highlight with a step-back jumper and the free throw that came with it. Kuqo took revenge with a seven-meter triple to make Efes regain the lead, 17-19. Vukcevic immediately answered from downtown but Arslan hit a running jumper and Gregory added free throws to keep the guests ahead at 20-23. Vukcevic fired in another three-pointer while Watson beat Loren Woods with a power layup, good for a 25-25 tie. Milano had switched to a 2-3 zone defense that Woods beat with an easy layup. Arslan took over with a big triple from the left wing but a red hot Vukcevic copied him for a 28-30 Milano deficit. Woods finished a long three-chance Efes offense with an easy basket, making Milano call timeout at 28-32. Katelynas shined with a jump hook that Hutson erased with a five-meter jumper. Katelynas insisted with a power layup that Kuqo matched with yet another easy basket in the other end. Gallinari fed Aradori for a layup to get Milano within 34-36 at halftime.
Watson tied the game with an easy basket right after the break while Katelynas fired in a triple from the top of the key to make the hosts regain a 39-36 lead. Hutson hit his trademark baseline jumper, as Efes had improved its aggressiveness early in the third quarter. Hutson shined with a big basket in the low post for a 39-40 Efes edge. Gallinari stepped up with an acrobatic basket, as Milano kept shining in defense. Meanwhile, Booker fed Katelynas for a layup in transition that made Efes coach David Blatt call a much-needed timeout. Scoonie Penn stepped up with a three-point play while Gregory buried yet another three-pointer to put Efes back ahead, 43-46. Milano struggled to find good options in offense, while Nicholas capped a 0-9 run with a step-back triple, making Milano call timeout. Sesay tried to bring Milano back to life while Vukcevic added a driving layup to get the hosts within 47-50. Penn made free throws but Vukcevic answered from downtown to keep Milano as close as 50-52. Nicholas scored again while Shaw stepped up with 4 quick points to get the hosts within 54-56. Penn shined with a driving basket while Nicholas beat the buzzer with a wild triple for a 54-61 Efes margin after 30 minutes.
Milano tried to speed up the game tempo early in the fourth quarter but kept missing open shots. Both teams went scoreless for more than 2 minutes, however, until Sesay stepped up with a driving layup. Penn shined with a mid-range jumper while Gregory hit his fifth triple in as many attempts to give Efes its first double-digit lead, 56-66, with 7 minutes to go. Milano switched back to zone defense and Aradori scored coming off the baseline, as Efes started to make too many mistakes right when it mattered. Milano kept struggling to score while Hutson hit free throws to keep Efes out of trouble, 58-68. Watson shined with an uncontested dunk and soon added a power layup to give Milano some hope, 62-68. Nicholas stepped up with a long two-pointer and soon added a fast break layup that sealed the outcome, 62-72, with less than 3 minutes to go. Watson dunked it again and soon added a free throw but it happened to be too little, too late for the hosts. Penn shined with a driving layup and Efes returned home with a valuable road win.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007