Efes Pilsen ruined the home debut of RheinEnergie Cologne both in the Euroleague and in the nearby city of Dusseldorf by rolling to a 68-82 road victory in their Group A showdown on Thursday. Efes raised its group record to 2-0, while RheinEnergie sits opposite in the standings at 0-2. The trademark relentless defense of the visitors proved crucial as Efes rolled ahead by 23 points early in the third quarter. RheinEnergie rallied to come back all the way to within 7 with 5 minutes left, but ran out of luck atthat point. Marcus Haislip was the leading scorer for Efes with 16 points in just 16 minures. Only Cenk Aykol and Kerem Gonlum, with 12 points each, joined him in double digits. RheinEnergie had four such scorers, with Marcus Faison coming off the bench for 19 to lead the hosts. Ronald Burrell added 17, Immanuel McElroy 13 and Demond Mallet 10.
RheinEnergie opened with some quick scores around the basket by Ronald Burrell and Immanuel McElroy. Except for a Marcus Haislip baseline jumper, Efes had trouble hitting shots early on. After Gortat found McElroy with a nifty pass down low and Janar Talts hit a layup, the score read 8-2 for the hosts from RheinEnergie. But RheinEnergie’s turnovers proved costly, as Efes fought back with a Nicholas three-pointer and a dunk by Haislip. Akyol answered Mallet’s three-pointer in transition with a downtown strike of his own. RheinEnergie's Burrell returned the favor as he responded to a Haislip slam with two dunks of his own, making the score 16-15 for the home team despite 3 free throws made by Jenkins. With the end of the first quarter approaching, Efes coach Oktay Mahmuti turned to big man Nikola Prkacin down low, where he scored consecutive baskets on hook shots to give Efes a 16-19 edge after 10 minutes.
Efes got off to a great start into the second quarter. Ermis hit a triple and Aykol and long-range two-pointer force RheinEnergie's first timeout of the night. Gortat, Faison and McElroy came out of it and scored for the home team, but Prkacin twice found fellow big man Gonlum for easy lay-ins. Efes kept going inside, as Kuqo scored down low and Nicholas scored on a breakaway after some great defense, making the score 22-36 for the visitors. RheinEnergie fought back with a three-pointer from Faison and a Burrell jump shot. McElroy scored inside, and Nadjfeji celebrated his Euroleague debut with a three-pointer. But Efes turned now to another big man, Haislip, who answered the call with a pair of triples and a thunderous dunk. With time ticking away, Erden calmy swished a three pointer for Efes to beat the buzzer and give his team a 34-52 lead at intermission.
Efes seemed poised to land the knockout punch soon after the break, as Kuqo, Jenkins and Akyol scored quick points to make it 36-59. But that's when Faison ran wild to bring his team back, scoring 12 of RheinEnergie’s next 14 points, including a rare four-point play. After Guido Grundheid rejected a shot by Prkacin, Burrell hit a free throw that cut the RheinEnergie deficit to 10 points. Both teams missed for awhile as defenses dominated, until Prkacin hit a free throw for Efes and McElroy scored after hustling for the ball down low, making it 53-62 after 30 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, both teams traded baskets time and time again. RheinEnergie’s Mallet hit a three-pointer and a pull-up jumper, but Gonlum kept Efes safe with a tip-in, a dunk and 2 free throws. After a hook shot by Gortat and Faison's steal and layup, RheinEnergie was down only by 7 points with 5 minutes to play. But Efes would not let them get any closer. The visitors used tough defense and some timely hoops by Kuqo, Ermis and Nicholas to pull away 80-66. A nice alley-oop by Gonlum off a pass by Kuqo made for a final score of 68-82 as Efes stayed perfect in Group A.