Vujacic stars as Efes holds off Milan
Anadolu Efes Istanbul improved to 4-2 in difficult Group C by topping EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 77-71 at Abdi Ipecki Sports Hall on Friday. Efes registered its fourth win in its last five games. Milan dropped to 2-4 and now faces two critical games in the Top 16 race against Cedevita Zagreb and Caja Laboral Vitoria. Sasha Vujacic paced the winners with a Euroleague career-high 29 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting. Jamon Lucas and Kerem Gonlum each added 10 for Efes. Gonlum also grabbed 12 rebounds for a double-double. Keith Langford led Milan with 15 points. Malik Hairston netted 14 and Nicolo Melli 10 for the guests. Richard Hendrix kept Milan within 20-18 after 10 minutes. An outstanding Langford helped Milano boost its margin to 27-36 at halftime. Vujacic had 17 points in the third quarter as Efes regained the lead, 54-52, after 30 minutes. Ermal Kuqo and Lucas shined early in the fourth quarter as Efes boosted its margin to 67-56 and never looked back.
First quarter: Gonlum pushes Efes to small lead
Semih Erden got Efes going with a running hook and Lucas soon added a three-point play for a 5-0 lead. Hendrix stepped up with a close basket, which Jordan Farmar bettered with a three-pointer. Gonlum dunked it off a steal to bring the crowd to its feet at 10-2. Langford shined with a wild driving layup and free throws by Hendrix brought Milan within 10-6. Vujacic nailed a corner jumper and Farmar dunked to keep Efes out of trouble, 14-6. Hendrix kept pacing Milano with a mid-range jumper that Erden erased with a dunk. Alessandro Gentile struck from downtown, but left the game right after that due to injury. Malik Hairston joined the three-point shootout to bring Milan as close as 16-14. Gonlum split free throws and added a dunk to boost Efes's lead to 19-14. Hendrix hit a turnaround jumper and a mid-range shot to keep Milan within 20-18 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Defense, Langford lead Milan
A three-pointer by Rok Stipcevic gave Milan its first lead, 20-21, early in the second quarter. Efes struggled to get its big men involved and a fast break layup by Gianluca Basile made people start to wonder at 20-23. Josh Shipp finished a three-chance Efes offense with a layup, but Basile matched it with a rainbow jumper. Kerem Tunceri found space for an uncontested layup, but Langford scored off a timeout to restore a 24-27 Milan lead. Dusko Savanovic split free throws only to see Efes keep struggling to find a way to the basket. Nicolo Melli took over with a wild driving layup, which caused the hosts to call timeout at 25-29. Hairston scored down low and Milan kept excelling on defense, not allowing Farmar to dominate the game tempo. Langford took over with a fast break layup that boosted the guests' margin to 25-33. Free throws by Gonlum and a buzzer-beating triple by Antonis Fotsis fixed the halftime score at 27-36.
Third quarter: Vujacic leads the hosts' comeback
Both teams struggled to score after the break until Vujacic brought the crowd to its feet with a three-pointer. Efes raised its intensity level and Hendrix returned to the bench with 4 fouls. Vujacic split free throws and Milano called timeout once the guests entered the foul penalty. Fotsis shined with a driving basket, which Vujacic erased with free throws for a 33-38 score. A red-hot Vujacic provided a highlight with an off-balance triple – and the free throw that came with it. David Chotti rescued Milan with a reverse layup, but Erden followed a dunk with a power basket to complete the hosts' comeback, 41-40. Gonlum took over with a wild put-back basket that Chiotti matched with a layup. A three-pointer by Langford soon restored a 43-46 Milan edge. Vujacic, Ermal Kuqo and Vujacic hit foul shots, but Melli singlehandedly kept Milan ahead, 48-50. Vujacic nailed a triple and a layup-plus-foul by Lucas gave Efes a 54-52 edge after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Efes rolls early to seal the win
Omar Cook made free throws early in the fourth quarter, but Kuqo matched that with a layup and Savanovic added a fast break basket that made it a 4-point game. Milano struggled to find a go-to guy and called timeout with over eight minutes to go. Kuqo scored again, but Hairston answered with a mid-range jumper. Lucas shined with a backdoor layup and free throws by Savanovic gave Efes some fresh air, 64-56. A three-pointer by an unstoppable Vujacic broke the game open. Melli tried to ignite the guests' comeback with a long two-pointer and Langford added free throws to give Milan some hope at 67-60. Fotsis scored down low and Efes called timeout at 67-62. Lucas sank a close jumper and Efes improved its defense right when it mattered. Vujacic nailed a three-pointer that sealed the outcome, 72-62, with less than three minutes left. Milan kept trying, but Efes was already on its way to a critical home win.
Friday, November 16, 2012