Efes Pilsen became the exclusive leader in Group C by beating Adecco Asvel 67-73 on Wednesday in Villeurbanne, France. Efes improved its record to 7-2 and moves ahead of Benetton Treviso (6-3), which lost on the road to Tau Ceramica (5-4). Meanwhile, Asvel falls to 2-7 and little hopes at all of making the Top 16. The game turned into a physical battle in the second half, when Efes took over late to clinch a hard-fought win. Trajan Langdon led the winners with 21 points, while Antonio Granger added 13 and Kaya Peker 11 before leaving the game late in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. Harold Mrazek led Asvel with 15 points on 5 of 5 three-pointers. Andre Owens added 14, Robert Gulyas posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Sacha Giffa also chipped in 12 for the hosts.
Giffa, with a three-pointer and a mid-range jumper from the right side, gave Asvel a 5-3 lead to start the game. Both teams were scoring fluently, as Peker dominated Gulyas in the offensive end, while Langdon started to find his rhythm. A basket by Owens and another jumper by Giffa gave the hosts a 15-14 lead after 5 minutes, but a four-meter shot by Langdon started a 1-6 run in which Ender Arslan added a layup and Peker a two-handed slam put Efes ahead 16-20. A triple by Mrazek meant fresh air to the hosts, but it didn't last long, as Langdon hit 2 triples of his own, from the corner and the top of the arc, helping Efes to a 19-27 advantage after 10 minutes.
Another three-pointer by Granger made it 19-30 to start the second quarter. Only then, Asvel started to come back, as a strong basket by newcomer Marcus Taylor helped an 11-3 run in which Herve Toure had a left-handed slam and a three-pointer. Up now by only 30-33, Efes responded with a 4-12 blast started with a three-pointer by Arslan and including a basket each by Granger, Peker, Langdon and Niksa Prkacin. Owens drilled a mid-range jumper which Prkacin immediately answered in the other end. Peker had to leave the game with a sprained ankle, but Goran Nikolic came off the bench to dunk it in the final play of the half, which gave Efes a 12-point lead, 37-49.
A five-meter jumper by Gulyas and 5 points by Owens made it a seven-point game, 44-51, early in the third quarter. Efes called timeout, but Mrazek drilled a three-pointer right after it, making it a 10-2 run for Asvel. Langdon finally found the way to the basket with a layup, but Karim Souchu answered at the other end. Asvel's zone defense was really aggressive against one of the toughest teams in the competition, but Efes found its go-to guy in Nikolic, who drilled a turnaround jumper and a long two-pointer, and assisted Ermal Kuqo for an easy layup. As suc, the guests boosted their lead to 50-59 entering the fourth, making up for their bad start of the quarter, in which they scored just 6 points in 8 minutes.
Efes went scoreless for 3 minutes early in the final period, while a three by Mrazek and a jumper by Taylor brought Asvel within 55-60. As the Efes defense got more physical, an off-balanced jumper by Granger and free throws by Prkacin pushed the lead to 9 points, 55-64, with 5 minutes to go. After Gulyas answered with a short jumper, both teams failed to score for the next 2 minutes. With a seven-meter shot by Arslan, Efes entered the final 2 minutes ahead by 10, 57-67. The game had turned into a defensive battle. Giffa's 2 foul shots mad it 59-67, but time seemed short until a pair of huge three-pointers by Mrazek with 39.6 seconds to go brought the hosts within 4 points, 66-70. Asvel never came closer, however, and a carousel of free throws followed, in which Langdon made 2 to seal the win for the guests.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004