Efes Pilsen stormed back from a 17-point second-half deficit to deny Le Mans Sarthe Basket its first win of the season on Thursday night. Efes, which trailed 74-61 after three periods, held Le Mans to just 6 points in the fourth quarter and 4 in the overtime period to wrap up an 84-91 road win. Efes improved to 7-4 in the Group B standings and inched closer to a spot in the Top 16. Head coach David Blatt’s charges will clinch their ticket to the next stage with another win or a Cibona Zagreb loss in any of the remaining games this season. Kenny Gregory paced Le Mans with 19 points against his former club, while center Loren Woods erupted for 16 points and 18 rebounds – both season-highs – to lead the visitors. Woods was the main reason Efes won the battle on the glass 26-44. Le Mans led for most of the night, taking a double-digit advantage by the end of the first period, increasing it to 51-40 at halftime and reaching 74-57 late in the third. But Efes awoke in time, shut down the Le Mans attack and nearly won the game at the end of regulation before Scoonie Penn missed a layup with 5 seconds left. Even though Le Mans scored the first two baskets of the overtime period, they would also be their last as Efes dominated with 10 unanswered points to seal the victory. Penn, playing 39 minutes since Efes still without injured guard Drew Nicholas, scored 18 points, Rashad Wright added 14 and Ermal Kuqo had 11. Nebojsa Bogavac led Le Mans with 20 points, Sam Clancy added 18 points and 7 rebounds, Alain Koffi scored 15 and grabbed 7 boards and Yannick Bokolo scored 11 and dished 11 assists in defeat.
Le Mans started strong, taking a 9-2 lead just two-and-a-half minutes in on a Bokolo triple. Gregory answered with a three-pointer to get the visitors back within 11-7, but Le Mans remained in control and continued to increase the lead minute by minute. Clancy’s layup soon doubled the difference at 18-9 and Bogavac hit his second triple in three minutes for the biggest lead of the first quarter, 23-9. An Ender Arslan three-pointer and Penn’s layup late in the quarter helped Efes cut the difference to 10 points at the end of the period, 26-16.
Efes found its offensive touch at the beginning of the second period. Woods’s free throws made it 27-24 and a little later the center reduced the gap to a single point with a layup to complete at 3-10 spurt. But Le Mans didn’t let Efes take over, controlling the game through Koffi inside and Bogovac outside. A Koffi layup made it 37-31 midway through the period, but Wright kept Efes in the game. His skillful layup over Sam Clancy plus a free throw made it 37–36. Kofi and Bogovac paired once again on an 8-0 run to pump up the lead to 45-36. Bokolo soon fed Koffi for a nice dunk and Bogavac picked Arslan’s pocket and went in for a layup to increase the lead to 13 points. Wright’s free throws ended the first half with the hosts up 51-40.
It was the same scene also in the third quarter as the home team stayed aggressive on defense and kept shooting at high percentages both inside and outside. Clancy worked well on Woods to keep the difference the same. Clancy added another layup over Woods to make it 68-55. Then Luka Bogdanovic drilled 2 three-pointers to give Le Mans its biggest lead, 74-57. Efes scored 4 points to end the third quarter down 74-61.
Efes started the last period very aggressive on defense and at the same time got 3 straight three pointers by Penn and Kuqo to level the game once again. Kuqo added another layup to get his team within 76-72. Koffi scored for the hosts, but then Efes posted the next 8 points through Penn, Woods and Gregory to take the lead for the first time since than the start of the game. Woods dished to Penn for a layup to make it 78-80. Both teams played the rest of the regular time under big pressure. Bokolo made a skillful layup with 95 seconds remaining to tie the game at 80-80. Penn missed a layup with 5 seconds left that could have won the game.
Early in overtime, Nicolas Batum stole the ball from Andre Hutson and gave the lead to Le Mans once again. Clancy added a layup to give Le Mans more hope at 84-81, but then Efes reeled off 10 unanswered points to seal the victory with an 84-91 final score.
Thursday, January 10, 2008