Armani Jeans Milano confirmed that it is ready to fight for a Top 16 spot in Group B by edging Le Mans 63-71 in France on Thursday night. Armani Jeans Milano registered its second consecutive road win in Group B and improved to 2-5 to stay seventh in the standings, while Le Mans dropped to 0-7 and needs a major turnaround to keep its Top 16 chances alive. Dusan Vukcevic led the winners with 18 points on 6-for-9 two-pointers. Danilo Gallinari and Melvin Booker each added 15 while Travis Watson posted a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds for Milano. Gallinari added 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 12 fouls drawn to round a big all-around game. Raviv Limonad led Le Mans with 20 points and 5 assists. Sam Clancy added 13 while Alain Koffi had 12 points and 5 blocks for the hosts. Limonad and Koffi allowed Le Mans with get a 27-18 lead midway through the second quarter but a 4-15 run that Vukcevic capped with a three-pointer gave Milano its first lead, 31-33, at halftime. Clancy and Koffi allowed Le Mans to regain the lead and extend it to 55-49 wuth 9 minutes to go, but second-chance baskets and an unstoppable Vukcevic allowed Milano to get a 62-65 edge with 2 minutes to go. Booker sealed the outcome with a corner triple with 34.3 seconds to go, allowing Milano to keep its Top 16 dreams alive.
Ansu Sesay got Milano going with a five-meter jumper, as the guests opened the game with a 1-3-1 zone defense. Luka Bogdanovic punished it with a big triple while Alain Koffi scored inside for a 5-2 Milano lead. Limonad buried a three-pointer to cap a 8-0 Le Mans lead. Watson tried to change things with a power layup but Nicolas Batum answered with a five-meter jumper against Milano's zone defense. The guests called timeout and switched to man-to-man defense but Limonad made a free throw for a 11-4 Le Mans lead. Watson scored in the paint but Limonad was now on fire, as he stepped up with consecutive baskets in transition to keep Le Mans ahead. Vukcevic had found space for an uncontested layup while Koffi accidentally scored in his own basket to get Milano within 15-10. Yannick Bokolo drew a foul and calmly made free throws, as Koffi kept dominating in the defensive end with 3 blocks in the opening period. Even with that, a three-pointer by Melvin Booker got Milano within 17-13 after 10 minutes.
Bokolo kept pacing Le Mans with a jumper early in the second quarter. Booker replied with a jump shot of his own, as both teams struggled to score early in the second quarter. Phil Ricci split 2 free throws to give Le Mans a 20-15 edge. Milano could not find the way to the basket but defense kept the guests in the game now. Watson drew a foul and hit a free throw, but the guests needed much more than that. Clancy scored inside to boost the hosts' lead to 22-16 midway through the second quarter. Vukcevic stepped up with a long two-pointer, making Le Mans call timeout at 22-18. Batum buried one from downtown and soon added a put-back basket to give Le Mans its biggest lead, 27-18. He soon picked up his third foul, however, when Gallinari took him down low and converted a three-point play. Vukcevic got a layup in transition and even when Clancy scored, Gallinari made free throws for a 29-26 Milano deficit. Sesay sank a jumper and even when Diot scored for Le Mans, Vukcevic followed a jumper with a three-pointer to give Milano its first lead, 31-33, at halftime.
Booker made free throws right after the break but Limonad stroke twice from downtown, one from each wing, to make Le Mans regain the lead, 37-35. Gallinari grabbed a loose ball and put it in but Le Mans was a different team in defense now, with much more aggressivity. Milano opted to drive to the basket, as Wtason allowed the guests to have second-chance shots. Both teams exchanged turnovers and missed shots until Booker scored coming off the baseline for a 37-39 Milano lead. Clancy provided a highlight with a wild dunk in traffic but Watson quickly answered with an even bigger slam. Le Mans started to dominate the defensive board but soon entered the foul bonus. Gallinari quickly made free throws that Koffi erased with a jump hook to get the hosts within 42-43. Limonad took over with an off-balanced jumper but a put-back layup by Pietro Aradori provided another lead change, 44-45. Clancy scored inside but Casey Shaw shined with a put-back layup. Koffi took over with a three-point play but a reverse layup by Vukcevic tied it at 49-49. Koffi kept pacing Le Mans with a put-back dunk that Limonad followed with a driving basket that gave the hosts a 53-49 edge after three quarters.
Le Mans stayed focused in defense early in the fourth quarter, not allowing Milano to take any easy shots. Meanwhile, Limonad fed Clancy for a two-handed dunk to give the hosts a 55-49 margin. Gallinari found space for an easy layup but Clancy found Koffi for yet another big dunk. Milano called a much-needed timeout and Booker banked in a mid-range shot, as the guests switched back to 2-3 zone defense. Mindaugas Katelynas scored in a third-chance Milano offense to give the guests some hope at 58-55. Le Mans called timeout but kept struggling to score while Vukcevic got Milano even closer, 58-57. Clancy made free throws that Vukcevic erased with a driving layup. Watson allowed Milano to regain the lead, 60-61, with 4 minutes remaining. Limonad took over with a wild driving layup but Gallinari shined with a high-flying tip-in. Le Mans called timeout but Milano kept dominating the boards. Meanwhile, Vukcevic and Gallinari made free throws for a 62-65 edge with 2 minutes to go. Batum missed from downtown while Watson had a key block on Koffi that allowed Booker to bury a corner triple with 34.3 seconds remaining, enough for Milano to seal the outcome down the stretch.
Thursday, December 6, 2007