Bennet Cantu topped Sluc Nancy 80-69
Bennet Cantu celebrated its long-awaited return to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague with an 80-69 victory over SLUC Nancy on Wednesday. Andrea Cinciarini led the winners with 15 points on near-perfect shooting, but it was Cantu’s defense that was the story of the game. The hosts jumped ahead by holding Nancy to just 8 third-quarter points. And when Nancy started to push to come back, the aggressive Cantu defense resulted in several knocked passes and steals that limited the visitors’ effectiveness. Clever passing and big shots down the stretch allowed Cantu to win its first game in Europe’s premier basketball competition since 1994. Vladimir Micov added 14 points and Marko Scekic came off the bench for 11 to help head coach Andrea Trinchieri’s side. Akin Akingbala paced Nancy with 20 points and 7 rebounds, Nicolas Batum flirted with a triple-double and finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists and Adrien Moerman also tallied 13 in defeat.
Akingbala scored the first two baskets of the game, the first on an assist from Batum for an easy layup and the second on a dunk. Micov posted the first basket of the season for Cantu. The visitors extended their lead to 2-8 on a Victor Samnick layup, but Cantu stayed close on a Micov three-pointer and free throws by Cinciarini to cut the lead to 7-8. Samnick popped out to score from mid-range and Moerman flew into the break for 2 easy points to open a 9-14 lead for Nancy. Manu Markoishvili scored 4 consecutive points for Cantu to stay within striking distance. Another quick break finished by Moerman and an exchange of three-pointers by Nicolas Mazzarino and Moerman made it 15-20 with a minute remaining in the quarter. Giorgi Shermadini’s free throws ended the quarter with Nancy ahead 17-21.
Cinciarini connected from downtown to open the second quarter. Moerman countered on the break, but Shermadini forced through a dunk and blocked a shot to launch Markoishvili for an open mid-range jumper and the first advantage of the night for the home team, 24-23. Moussa Badiane and Kenneth Grant scored back-to-back baskets, which gave the French champs a 24-27 lead. A lucky three-pointer by veteran Gianluca Basile tied the score. Batum and Grant fuelled Nancy from beyond the arc, while Cantu found points in the paint by Cinciarini and Denis Marconato to stay within 31-33. David Lighty entered the game and scored from downtown for Cantu. Then John Linehan stole the ball, found Moerman for an easy layup-and-foul to open a 34-38 margin at the midway point of the quarter. A Cinciarini three-pointer, culminating a perfect team play, put Cantu out front again, 39-38. Lighty and Pape Philippe Amagou scored pull-up jumpers, while a Scekic three- pointer gave Cantu a 44-40 cushion. Batum free throws and an Akingabala layup tied the score at 44-44 as the first half came to an end.
Cinciarini ended two scoreless minutes at the start of the second half with a bullet from beyond the arc to give the hosts a 47-44 lead. Jamal Shuler hit from mid-range and Akingabala followed a steal with a dunk to put the French champs back ahead a minute later. Scekic scored back-to-back layups and another dunk by Akngabala fixed a slim 51-50 margin for Cantu. Markoishvili assisted Scekic for his third bucket in a row midway through the quarter. Defense prevailed for a couple minutes before Batum finished a break and Micov buried an open three-pointer to make it 56-52. A Shermadini free throw gave the home side a 57-52 lead through three quarters.
Markoshvili’s foul shots and Maarten Leunen’s jump hook extended Cantu’s lead to 61-52 early in the final quarter. Akingabala converted 2 offensive boards into 4 points, energizing Nancy. Micov answered with a layup, but an unstoppable Akingabala continued his show, scoring from mid-range to get closer, 63-58. Micov’s rainbow layup followed by another by Scekic gave the home squad its first double-digit margin, 69-58, with five minutes left on the clock. Akingabala kept Nancy in the hunt with another dunk and, seconds later, a layup, but Basile drilled one from downtown to re-establish a 72-62 advantage for Cantu. Batum found the basket with a two-pointer, but Basile answered with a layup and foul shot for a 76-66 lead with two minutes to play. Shermadini made an amazing block on a Shuler layup attempt, punctuating the home team’s return to the Euroleague. After Micov added 2 from the free-throw line; Linehan made 2 after a nice steal from Basile, but Cantu’s margin was too great for Nancy to make up the difference and the hosts sealed the win, 80-69, on Cinciarini’s floater in the lane.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011