Tau Ceramica stayed strong at the top of Group A by turning back visiting GHP Bamberg by an unmistakeable 77-59 final score in Vitoria, Spain on Wednesday. In the first game ever between the two teams, Tau turned on its talent and experience with a 28-10 second quarter blast that put it in charge the rest of the game. After giving up 25 points to the visitors in the first 10 minutes, Tau's defense allowed just 34 the rest of the night. Tau improved to 5-1 and will wait to see if Zalgiris wins on Thursday to know if it must still share first place. Bamberg fell to 2-4, tied for fifth place with AEK. Tau's perimeter did the scoring damage, as Serkan Erdogan and Travis Hansen tallied 19 points each for the winners. Point guard Pablo Prigioni added 9 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals without missing a shot. Bamberg got 22 points from Demond Mallett and 11 from Koko Archibong while Tau's defense limited Spencer Nelson to just 4 points.
Tau needed more than 2 minutes to score, in which time Bamberg got baskets from Spencer and Koko Archibong for a 0-4 lead. Tau's answer came from outside, with Hansen's first three-pointer, but Bamberg showed no fear. Its tough defense prevented the hosts from getting good shots inside, and as such, the visitors stayed in front 7-11 as Derrick Phelps and Chris Ensminger joined the scoring. First baskets by Prigioni, Scola and Erdogan helped Tau stay right behind at 16-18, but Mallet was already warming up with a triple and an acrobatic layup. Tau managed to take the lead back after free throws by Scola and Casey Jacobsen, but Mallet continued rocking. He nailed a pair of three-pointers in consecutive trips down the floor and added a free throw to finish the quarter with Bamberg up 21-25.
Things changed quickly in the second quarter as Tiago Splitter and Erdogan fuelled a 7-0 run in 90 seconds for Tau, whose defense now closed off the paint to Bamberg. As such, the hosts ran ahead 32-27 after 15 minutes, forcing visiting coach Dirk Bauermann to call timeout. Bamberg tried a zone and Tau was slowed down by it as Archibong and Mallet split 4 points to tie 32-32 after 17 minutes. Erdogan took over then, however, with 4 in a row of his own that Hansen followed with a three-pointer, sending Tau ahead 39-32. Tau's margin hit double-digits on another triple by Erdogan, as Bamberg's shots began to fail. Thanks to very aggressive defense, Tau held the guests scoreless in the final 2 minutes of the quarter to reach the break comfortably ahead by 14 points, 49-35.
Things got even worse for Bamberg after the intermission, as Prigioni led Tau on a 6-0 run that increased the gap to 20 points, 55-35, in just 2 minutes. Although Bauermann tried to find solutions to Bamberg's offense, nothing seemed to work. Bamberg didn't find any basket inside, so the outside shot became the visitors' only weapon. As such, the difference remained thanks to the fact that Tau was not too accurate shooting, either. Both teams exchanged baskets and missed attempts during almost the whole period, so the score didn't see big changes as the third period closed at 67-47.
Bamberg showed a better face to start the final quarter. Although its offense remained erratic, Bamberg's will and hard-nosed defense allowed the guests to score 4 unanswered points and pull within 67-51 after 32 minutes. However, that boost lasted only until Hansen stepped up and hit back-to-back triples to remove all hope of a comeback. The game was almost over, and Tau took advantage of the big margin to rest Prigioni while the scoreboard saw no swings before the clock wound down to a 77-59 victory and at least a share of first place for the hosts in Group A.
Wednesday, December 7, 2005