Tau Ceramica remained on pace to finish the regular season in first place in Group A with a 78-84 win at Efes Pilsen on Wednesday night at Abdi Ipekci Sports Hall in Istanbul, Turkey. Tau's Turkish guard Serkan Erdogan scored 18 points in front of friends and family to lead Tau to its 10th straight Euroleague win. The visitors improved to 10-1 this season and remain at least a step ahead of second-place Olympiacos, which hosts LeMans on Thursday. Efes Pilsen dropped to 6-5 and now sits in fourth place in the group. Tau led for much of the game and went up by double figures late in the second period to take a 32-43 halftime advantage. Marcus Haislip scored half his team's points during an 8-0 spurt to get back in the game and closed to within 3 during the fourth quarter, but Tau held on easily for the win. Luis Scola added 17 points, while Igor Rakocevic and Kaya Peker had 12 apiece for Tau, for whom Zoran Planinic dished 10 assists. Haislip led Efes with 23 points, Horace Jenkins added 20 points and 6 assists and Drew Nicholas finished with 13 points and 6 assists.
Tau and Efes came out hammering each other basket for basket until 7-6, when the visitors made the first break. Tau forced 3 consecutive Efes turnovers and used triples by Erdogan and Rakocevic, sandwiched around Scola's second basket, to race ahead 7-14. Efes, after a timeout, brought in Prkacin to help on offense, and he got loose underneath for a pair of baskets on feeds by Drew and Jenkins, that brought the hosts back to within 15-16. Haislip helped the cause with a high-flying dunk, giving him 7 points already, however, Tau substitute Fred House finished the quarter with a driving layup to leave the guests holding an 15-18 after 10 minutes.
The second quarter had a similar flow, as Tau rocketed ahead again, starting with Erdogan's second three-point shot and free throws by Splitter that made it 15-23. Laron Profit answered with a triple for Efes, but that was all the hosts could manage for most of 4 minutes. Jenkins turned his team around with 5 points in a row that cut the difference to 24-27. That just meant it was time for another Tau blast, however. Scola started it and then, after big block by Mirza Teletovic, he joined Pablo Prigioni and Rakocevic in raining a trio of triples that sent the guests way in front, 26-38. It was all that Efes could do with baskets by Kerem Gonlum, Ermal Kuqo, Nicholas and Jenkins to stay within 32-43 at the half.
Efes had a better start to the second half as it aimed on closing the gap. A three-pointer from the side by Haislip got the hosts nearer, then Jenkins and Prkacin made layups that made it 43-47. Another of Tau's players from Turkey, Peker, kept the visitors calm by scoring a basket for his seventh point of the quarter already and lifting the lead back to a safe 43-52. Erdogan was not ready to stay calm, however, and he reappeared with a pair of three-pointers around one by Nicholas that left an 48-60 scoreboard. Efes than started to show its strongest side, defens, limiting Tau to just 2 points the rest of the quarter while making nothing but free throws in a 10-2 run that accomplished the goal of closing the gap to 58-62 after 30 minutes.
A pair of quick layups by Peker and Splitter settled down Tau to start the final quarter, so that even when Jenkins popped a triple from the arc, the visitors still led 61-67. But Jenkins and Haislip got back to the foul line now, where they reduced the differance to 3 points, 64-67, with more than 7 minutes let. After Akyol Cenk of Efes made it 66-69, Tau went back to work on expanding the chsion, with Rakocevic making a triple before layups by Splitter and Scola made it 66-76. Efes tried again, as Haislip and Drew combined on the next 5 points, cutting the difference to 71-76, but that was the hosts' last gasp. Planinic stepped up with a huge triple for Tau before Scola got a three-point basket-plus-free throw to settle the matter in favor of the visitors, 78-84.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007