Efes Pilsen walked tall through the front door to the Top 16 on Wednesday with a great defensive effort in a blowout 75-57 victory over visiting Skipper Bologna, which had previously qualified for the next round. Besides advancing, Efes tied Skipper at 7-5 and reclaimed third place for having now beaten the Italians in both their meetings. The Efes defense held Skipper to its lowest point total all season, 14 points fewer than in any other game. The visitors were handicapped by the absence of their top per-minute scorer, Gianmarca Pozzecco, who did not travel due to flu. Without him, Skipper could not respond to the game-changing entrance of Efes swingman Alper Yilmaz, who finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals. Yilmaz buried 6 of 8 three-pointers as Efes made 12 of 22 overall (55%) from behind the arc. Indeed, the entire Efes perimeter proved unstoppable for Skipper as Marcus Brown paced the winners with 21 points and Kerem Tunceri added 14. Giacomo Galanda led Skipper with 11 points, Carlos Delfino and Gianluca Basile added 10 each, and Mate Skelin had 8 points and 14 rebounds. Skipper was tied 34-34 at the half but shot poorly in the third quarter as Efes pulled irrevocably away.
Without Pozzecco and Robert Fultz at guard, nor forward Stefano Mancinelli, Skipper took early lead in Istanbul, thanks to Galanda and Skelin doing a good job beneath the baskets. Skipper led 9-12 after 6 minutes, and then deepened the lead to 9-15 on Delfino's triple. Galanda opened the court with outside shooting and obliged Efes Pilsen to call a timeout to stop the run. The hosts returned from the timeout with a different attitude and set about making a big 9-0 run to take back the lead thanks to good defense that begat steals and points on the break by Tunceri and Yilmaz. As such, Efes closed the quarter with 3 points to defend, leading 18-15.
Efes tried to run away in the second quarter. Thanks to Yilmaz once again and Brown, the Turkish champs broadened their run from the previous quarter to 19-3 and their lead to double digits, 28-18. Skipper did not surrender, however. It stayed in the game with triples from Basile and Lubos Barton, while Skelin worked the post and the deficit dwindled to 28-24. Skelin exploited his height advantage against Kambala to give Skipper good movement of the ball inside and outside. Efes tried to slow down the rhythm, but Skipper, despite Basile's third foul, found both the rebounds and key points to tie the score in time for the intermission, 34-34.
Efes Pilsen came out after the half and tried to deliver another heavy blow. Brown and Tunceri led their team on a blistering 18-6 run that gave hosts another double-digit lead at 52-40. Skipper started double teaming Kambala, but suffered when the ball was passed back out to the perimeter. Yilmaz hit another important three-pointer and Kaya Peker added points for Efes. Skipper's offense could not find its way in the third period, and after only 10 points permitted by its defense, Efes went into the final quarter with an 11-point advantage, 55-44.
Efes definitely put a lid on the game at the beginning of that fourth quarter. The hosts had great ball movement and found one open shot after another. Yilmaz hit 3 more threes to spark yet another big 12-4 run in the first 5 minutes, putting the lead near 20 points at 67-48. Skipper raised the white flag as the game had clearly gone too far from its reach. The same 19-point lead held for Efes until the end, giving the Istanbul fans plenty time to celebrat their arrival into the Top 16.
Wednesday, January 29, 2003