Tau Ceramica used a record-breaking perfomance from its signature player to edge GHP Bamberg 72-77 on the road in Group F on Thursday in the first-ever Top 16 game in Germany. Luis Scola paced Tau with his personal Euroleague career-high, 36 points on 13-for-20 shooting and 10 of 11 free throws. Scola's previous personal high was 34 points against Benetton in Game 1 of the Quarterfinal Playoffs last season and his total against Bamberg tied for the second-most ever in the Top 16. Tau joins CSKA atop the Group F standings with a 1-0 record, although one will be second after they face each other in Moscow next week. Bamberg is now 0-1, the same as Lietuvos Rytas. Travis Hansen had 15 points for the winners while Pablo Prigioni dished 11 assists, a Top 16 record, for Tau Ceramica. Chris Ensminger had 20 points for Bamberg while Robert Garrett added 13. Scola had 15 points in the opening 7 minutes of the final period to keep Tau in the game, 65-65. Hansen and Prigioni combined for 11 points in the final 3 minutes to seal the win for Tau.
Both teams started hot, with first possessions that turned into three-point plays. First came triples from the arc by Hansen for the guests and Spencer Nelson for Bamberg. Casey Jacobsen repeated from downtown for Tau, while Stefan Hamann got a basket-plus-free throw for Bamberg to tie 6-6 after 2 minutes. Hammann kept on rocking with a layup and free throws to give Bamberg a 10-6 advantage, but both defenses tightened at that point. Tau looked Scola, who started despite a slight injury, but he was stopped by Ensminger. Back-to-back three-pointers by Koko Archibong and Derrick Phelps filled a 6-0 run that widened Bamberg's gap to 16-8 and forced Tau's first timeout. Litte changed as Bamber maintained a difference of 19-13 after 10 minutes.
Scola took over for Tau in the second quarter, scoring 6 quick points to tie 19-19, forcing Bamberg's first timeout. Ensminger returned the lead to the hosts with a free throw, but Scola collected another basket to put Tau ahead for the first time at 20-21 after 14 minutes. Bamberg's drought didn't end there, while the visitors found both Serkan Erdogan and Kornel David open to escape by 20-25. Bamberg used a switch to zone defense to halt Tau while Garrett's short jumper and Archibong's fastbreak layup pulled the hosts within 24-25. Hammann tied it again at 25-25 with a free throw right after Tau called for a timeout. But that launched a 9-1 run in which Rick Stafford and Derrick Phelps scored 3 points each to leave Bamberg up 8 points, 34-26, at the break.
Ensminger increased the Bamberg to39-30 with 5 points in a row right after intermission, even though Tau was already feeding Scola and Splitter inside. That's when the visitors found their moment and took off on a 0-9 run capped by a fastbreak three-pointer from Hansen that tied the score at 39-39 after 25 minutes. A Bamberg timeout didn't help as Scola and Prigioni returned the lead to the visitors at 39-43. Bamberg switched again to zone defense, collecting the same good results it got before halftime. Ensminger, showing his dominance inside the paint, gave a lead back to Bamberg with 6 points in a row, but the game had no owner at that point, as both teams exchanged baskets and leads until Scola tied it again 50-50 to end the third quarter.
Scola and Garrett took over at the beginning of the last period, scoring all the points for their teams in the first 2 minutes. Scola was unstoppable, putting in 9 straight points that gave a 56-59 lead to the visitors. Bamberg tried a timeout to discuss how to stop him, but Scola kept scoring. In the same way, no one but Garrett found the basket for Bamberg in the first 5 minutes of the quarter, but he had fewer points while Scola pushed Tau in front 56-61. Eventually, Demond Mallet showed up to reduce the gap to 61-63 with a corner three-pointer for Bamberg. Tau's only weapon remained Scola, who collected all his team's 15 points so far in the quarter. As such, Bamberg tied the game again at 65-65 with 2 minutes to go on a layup by Nelson, but Hansen answered with a three-pointer on the next play for a 65-68 Tau lead. Hansen increased the difference with a couple of free throws right after that, getting Tau into a dominant position to face the last minute of the game. Although Bamberg tried to come back by fouling, the visitors showed no mercy from the free throw line and Mallet's flagrant foul late definitively sealed the outcome for Tau.
Thursday, February 23, 2006