The first game of the Top 16 played in Istanbul this season fell on Efes Pilsen's side, as it defeated Benetton Treviso by 80-68 in a Group G showdown. Benetton stayed close during the first quarter but the points by Antonio Granger first, and Niksa Prkacin later, allowed the hosts to build double-digit leads and stay safe until the final buzzer. Therefore, Efes starts well with a 1-0 record in Group G, while Benetton drops to a 0-1. Granger led the winners with 22 points including 4 of 6 triples and 8 rebounds, Prkacin added 18 and Henry Domercant posted 16. For Benetton, Andrea Bargnani had 16 points and 9 rebounds, Drew Nicholas 14 and Marcus Goree 12.
Andrea Bargnani scored the first basket and then committed the first foul for Benetton in this Top 16 but Niksa Prkacin replied with two free throws for a 2-2. Ender Arslan, in the starting five filling in for Marko Popovic, score right away and Antonio Granger soon added a triple for a 7-2 Efes lead. Henry Domercant copied him after Marcus Goree's basket for a 10-4 score, but Goree did it again to keep Benetton close. So close that when Drew Nicholas blasted a triple for the guests, they went ahead again 10-11. Matteo Soragna made a nifty move in the paint to score with no opposition as Efes struggled in offense, but Domercant persevered and managed to make Efes pull within 14-15 and later stepped up from the mid-court to blast a last triple that gave Efes the lead after 10 minutes, 19-17.
Efes was in full throttle now as five points by Granger and a three-point play by Prkacin allowed the hosts to pull away by 27-19. Only Petar Popovic scored for Benetton this quarter but Kerem Gonlum soared for a slam and a 29-21 that forced Benetton's timeout. After that however, Gonlum repeated the action for a double-digit Efes lead, 31-21. Popovic got a three-point play again, but finally Goree also scored for the guests after a new triple by Granger and a 34-26. Efes survived on a new triple by Baris Ermis, but Benetton moved the ball smart in offense to maintain the pace of the game, but Ermis blasted his second straight triple for a new 10-point Efes lead, 40-30. Goree slammed once more for Benetton but young Ermis was the last one to score before the break, 43-34.
Free throws by Ramunas Siskauskas and Bargnani's triple got Benetton going in the third quarter for a 45-39 score, until Kaya Peker finally found a space in the lane for a layup. Granger was still the main reference in offense for Efes but Domercant jumped in with his third triple that launched Efes to a 55-41 lead. Prkacin showed again his skills with the one on one in tha paint but Bargnani drove fast to erase that basket. Benetton wanted to come back, but Prkacin maintained Efes at a safe distance with constant baskets from the inside. Two free throws by Marco Mordente and his last basket on the buzzer hoever, allowed the guests to pull within 60-52 with 10 minutes to go.
The last period started well for Efes as Prkacin and Granger hit back-to-back baskets for a 64-52 that forced Benetton's new timeout. However, Efes' defensive wall made it tough for the guests to move the ball well and Domercant's steal allowed the hosts to find positive things in offense one more time in the hands of Prkacin. Bargnani finally nailed a new bomb and Siskauskas put back an offensive rebound for a 0-5 run that took the deficit below 10 points again, 66-57. Efes had some problems in offense now but Peker found the solution driving in the lane in minute 35 for a 68-57. Nicholas was fouled on a triple, but he managed to score all the three free throws, but in the following play, the tough defense of Efes collected a new steal that finished in Peker's sixth point and a 72-62 score. Time was running out for Benetton despite's Nicholas' triple, as Domercant sealed Efes' win with a new triple and 80 seconds to go that put a 75-65. When Nicholas missed a new jumper and Granger blasted a new three the fans in Istanbul started to celebrate the first win in this Top 16.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006