Elan Bearnais Pau-Orthez moved ever closer to reaching the Top 16 from Group C and sent a message that echoed around the continent by thrashing Aris TT Bank 77-62 at home in France on Wednesday. Pau improved to 6-5 and ties with Benetton Treviso for third place in the Group C standings. Pau will seal its ticket to the Top 16 if it beats Eldo Napoli at home next week, regardless of other results. Meanwhile, Aris is now fifth at 5-6 but keeps all its Top 16 chances alive. Michael Wright, Britton Johnsen and Cedric Ferchaud led the winners with 12 points each, while Aaron Miles and newcomer Melvin Sanders added 10 apiece. Alex Scales and Mike Wilkinson each had 17 points for Aris. Wright and Sanders fueled a 13-0 run which gave Pau a 28-13 lead after 15 minutes. Aris did not give up and managed to get within 41-35 midway through the third quarter, but Ferchaud and Ian Mahinmi each had 6 points in a 15-2 run that sealed the win.
Wilkinson buried a six-meter baseline jumper after the tipoff and soon added an uncontested layup for a quick 0-4 lead for Aris. Wright stepped in with a power layup, as Pau tried patience on offense, looking for the extra pass. Aaron Miles fired in a short jumper but Dimitrios Tsaldaris hit a long shot and added a reverse layup to give Aris a 4-8 edge. Pau found its go-to guy in Johnsen, who followed a layup-plus-free throw with a high-flying alley-oop dunk in a 8-0 run that Miles capped with free throws to put Pau ahead 12-8. Aris had entered the foul bonus and called a timeout from which Scales returned and made a put-back basket. Pau did not panic, however. Aris kept missing off-balanced shots while Ricardo Greer and Wright hit free throws for a 15-10 lead. Aris was limited to just 2 points in 5 minutes until Jeremiah Massey banked in a short shot for a 15-12 score after 10 minutes.
Pau kept full control early in the second quarter. Michael Bauer hit a three-pointer, Wright scored twice in the paint and Miles buried a mid-range jumper that forced another Aris timeout at 24-13. Newcomer Melvin Sanders scored around the basket for Pau while Wright capped a game-breaking 13-0 run with another layup, good for a 15-point margin, 28-13. Aris went scoreless for 4 minutes until Giorgos Sigalas hit a foul shot, but Sanders answered from downtown for a 31-14 Pau lead. Simonas Serapinas fired in a jumper that Wilkinson followed with a dunk to give Aris some hope at 31-18. Scales, Wilkinson and Serapinas extended the Aris run to 0-10 as it was Pau's turn to go scoreless for more than 5 minutes. After looking for Wright to no avail in the middle, Miles rescued the hosts with a strike from downtown before C.C. Harrison beat the buzzer with a wild triple that boosted Pau to a 37-24 advantage at halftime.
Johnsen kept pacing Pau after the break with a driving layup before free throws by Tsaldaris and Wilkinson got Aris within 39-27. Pau kept attacking the basket without much success and entered the foul bonus really early in the third quarter. Meanwhile, more foul shots by Scales and Spyros Pantelaidis made it an eight-point game, 39-31. Johnsen stepped up then with a put-back dunk, but Wilkinson hit free throws and Massey dunked in traffic to make Pau call timeout at 41-35. Harrison returned to hit a reverse layup and Wright added free throws as Pau restored its double-digit margin at 45-35. Panteliadis shined with a tough driving layup but Cedric Ferchaud answered from downtown to keep the hosts way ahead. Massey battled in the low post for a power layup while Tsaldaris scored in penetration, but a big triple by Sanders and a tip-in by Ian Mahinmi fixed the score at 54-41 after three quarters.
Scales and Johnsen exchanged free throws right at the start of the final period. Mahinmi shined with a big dunk and by the time he added a put-back basket, Pau had a 16-point lead, 60-44, with 8 minutes to go. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf tried to ignite an Aris comeback with a long jumper but Pau had started to play with long possessions to avoid any trouble. Mahinmi kept pacing Pau with free throws that Wilkinson matched with a layup. An unsportsman foul on Massey sealed the win, as free throws by Bauer and consecutive triples by Ferchaud made it a 22-point game, 70-48, midway through the final period. Everything was said and done, as all Pau fans in the stands started to celebrate a big win that moved the hosts really close to a Top 16 return for the first time in three years.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007