Le Mans picked up its first won of the season on Wednesday by topping Air Avellino 92-88 at home. Le Mans entered the contest as the only team in the competition this season without a victory, but Brian Chase took care of that with 10 points during a 12-1 second-period run. Though Le Mans led by as much as 73-53 by the end of the third quarter, Avellino made a monstrous 2-16 run and almost stole the game, but Dewarick Spencer stepped up when Le Mans needed him most. Spencer had a great overall performance and finished with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and guard Brian Chase scored 21 points to lead the winners. Center Joao Paulo Batista had 16 and forward David Bluthental 14 for the home team. Alain Koffi grabbed 8 boards for Le Mans, which outrebounded Avellino 34-24. Veteran guard Travis Best paced Avellino with 19 points, Chris Warren netted 18, big man Eric Williams added 12 and Drake Diener had 10 for the visitors.
Le Mans got a perfect start with baskets by Spencer, Batista and Maleye Ndoye before Warren put Avellino on the scoreboard with a three-point play. The hosts stayed focused on getting high-percentage shots on offence, as Spencer scored another layup and Batista hit a wide-open jumper and converted a three-point play inside for a 13-3 Le Mans lead. After an Avellino timeout, Best took the game in his hands, driving all the way to the rim as well as making jump shots for the visitors. But Le Mans kept scoring, too, and was up 21-10 after a long three by Spencer. On the other end, Best found Andrea Crosariol for the big man's second dunk of the night, and then hit a triple himself to cut it to 21-15, before an exchange of scoring followed, with Le Mans's Pape Badiane making the quarter's last bucket for a 27-19 advantage for the hosts.
Avellino started the second quarter the way Le Mans started the first, as Daniele Cinciarini nailed a three, Tamar Slay hit a two-pointer and Diener added a three-point play to even the score at 27-27. That’s when Chase picked it up for the hosts, scoring the game’s next 7 points with a furious drive and 2 jumpers. After free throws on both ends, Chase dribbled the ball up the court, set his feet behind the three-point line and connected on his second triple of the quarter to expand Le Mans’s lead to 39-28. Batista continued to challenge Avellino’s big men with his post-moves, and was a factor on defense as well, coming from behind to swap Best’s layup attempt. Down 43-30, Warren and Antonio Porta combined for 5 points to help the visitors stay in the game, but Le Mans was playing with a higher energy level, beating Avellino for the loose balls and on the boards. Chase closed the first half with a tough turn-around jumper that gave Le Mans a 50-37 lead.
Chase wasted no time to open the second half with his third triple of the game. After Best made 2 free throws at the other end, a nervous span with turnovers and no scoring followed before Spencer found a rolling Batista, who got fouled and split free throws to make it 54-39. Williams dunked off a Warren assist, but Spencer crashed the offensive glass to earn a trip to the line, hitting both. Though Nikola Radulovic dunked to punish a full-court press attempt by Le Mans, Spencer fed Bluthenthal for a fast break layup, and the hosts' lead, 58-43, wasn't shrinking. Best stepped up with 4 points, but the hot Bluthental matched him with 4 points of his own. Warren and the rest of Avellino players looked frustrated now, as Best was the only one to stay aggressive for the Italian team. Le Mans wouldn't stop attacking, and all of sudden it was 68-48 after a smooth off-the-dribble three by Spencer. Warren finally had some luck with a three-point play, but Ndoye erased it with a corner triple, and it was 73-53 with 10 minutes to go.
Avellino didn't give up yet, as the fourth quarter started with Williams overpowering Le Mans for 2 three-point plays, while Diener added a bucket, and it was 73-61 now. The home-crowd was getting nervous, but Spencer earned a trip to the line and Chase used his rocket-speed to put in a layup, and after Spencer hit his fourth triple of the night, the hosts seemed to be in control again, at 82-63. But Williams, Radulovic and Warren amassed a 2-11 run, cutting it to 84-74 and forcing Le Mans head coach J.D. Jackson to call a timeout with 2.46 to go. But Le Mans just couldn't hit on anything any more and 2 free throws by Radulovic and a triple by Diener put Avellino as close as 84-79. Finally, Chase split free throws for the home team, and after Cinciarini made a put-back on the other end, Spencer fed Batista for the game's most important layup. Even a turnover and a tough triple by Warren wouldn't take the victory from Le Mans as Spencer and Chase didn't miss from the line and Avellino ran out of time.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009