What could arguably be the biggest upset in Group A so far happpened on Wednesday as hosts Strasbourg defeated Tau Ceramica 84-76 to jeapordize the visitors' first-place standing. Strasbourg put several close losses behind it by closing ranks as Tau tried to rally at the end and giving its fans the taste of a second Euroleague victory. Strasbourg improves to 2-5, even on victories with three other Group A who play on Thursday. Tau lost its first game under new coach Velimir Perasovic, falling to 5-2. It must also wait for Zalgiris to play on Thursday to find out if it is still a co-leader of the group. Ricardo Greer was Strasbourg's best scorer with 19 points and led the winners down the stretch. K'Zell Wesson added 12. The Strasbourg bench outscore Tau's 33-16. For Tau, Luis Scola had 22 points, 16 of them in the first half, and 14 rebounds. Casey Jacobsen added 14 points and Kornel David had 12, including 8 of 8 free throws.
Greer scored 4 points to launch Strasbourg after the tipoff, but Scola doubled him with 8 by himself to forge an 8-8 tie. Strasbourg looked for fast transitions and it succeeded when K'Zell Wesson drove for a basket, but Casey Jacobsen nailed a triple to put Tau ahead 10-11. The guests boosted that to 10-13 when Kornel david posted free throws. Scola reached his 10th point only in minute 6 but Greer nailed free throws fast to erase Tau's last basket. The man-to-man defense of Strasbourg was not very tight and Tau run a fast 0-4 to increase the lead to 12-19. But again, Strasbourg did the same through Greer and Sacha Giffa, who scored inside for 16-19. Both teams found their pace and the game advanced as no one managed to move the difference in the score, not even when Prderag Drobnjak slammed for Tau, because Crawford Palmer found an open shot to put a 22-25 after 10 minutes.
Two fast baskets including a spectacular fastbreak dunk by Giffa put Strasbourg ahead again, 26-24 forcing Tau's timeout. Jacobsen nailed it again from the arc but Alvin Young tied the game once more, 28-28. Scola went on with the scoring party but now each offensive play almost always ended with a basket and therefore the score stayed close, 34-34 in minute 15. Defenses improved at this point and offenses were shut down on both sides, until Jeff Greer scored 5 stright points of his own to give Strasbourg a 1-point edge, 40-39. Pablo Prigioni went to the line to score three free throws but Stanley Jackson put an end to the first half with style with a layup over tau's defense that left a 45-44 for Strasbourg at the break.
Scola opened the second half with an open shot from 4 meters while Tau pressed with a zone defense on the other end. However, Ondrej Starosta found the space to drive and score for 47-46. Scola took it personal with a three-point play but R. Greer did the same and the game stood close, 50-51. Wesson capped a 8-0 run for Strasbourg from the free throw line and a 55-51 but Prigioni fed Tiago Splitter for a dunk that gave signs of life for Tau again. With Scola on bench, the hosts found it easier to score from underneath the basket but Young also tried it from outside with a three for 60-58. Travis Hansen found the bottom of the net quick from downtown to erase Young's triple and send the game to the decisive quarter with a tight 60-61.
The lack of concentration of Tau showed once again as Jackson stole the first ball of the fourth quarter for a new 62-61 Strasbourg lead and Wesson added another bucket to the delight of the home fans. The party continued when the hosts forced a shot-clock violation of Tau with good defense and the icing on the cake was John McCord's basket even though he missed the bonus free throw that came with it. Jacobsen missed a triple and Young ran to slam the ball and bring the house down with a 68-61 lead for Strasbourg. Tau tried it after a timeout but the hosts' reply was a new Jackson triple for the first double-digit lead of the night, 71-61. The 13-1 scoring run in the quarter forced Tau to run a little more, but the outside shots didn't go in and David scored four times from the line to maintain Tau alive, 73-67. Scola was on court now but he was not as closely effective as in his previous minutes of play and on the other end Strasbourg played long and scored when Wesson made it 77-67 and 3 minutes to go. David continued with free throws but another 4-0 by the hosts capped by Greer's steal and fastbreak made it 81-69 and two minutes left. But Tau was not dead and a fast 0-5 capped by Hansen's three-point play for 81-74 and 70 seconds left. On his turn, Wesson missed two free throws and Jacobsen hit the layup for 81-76 and 45 seconds left. Ricardo Greer stepped up to save Strasbrourg with a basket and Giffa added a steal that brought joy back to the stands as the fans celebrated the second win of their team against the Euroleague runner-up.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005