Its Top 16 hopes may be lost, but Alba put its imprint on the Group C regular season by stomping first-place Efes Pilsen 77-61 in Berlin on Wednesday. Apart from lifting the Berliners out of last place at 3-9, the victory allowed Alba to stop a seven-loss streak against Efes that lasted several seasons. Efes dropped to 9-3 and might find its intentions of finishing first in Group C complicated by this loss. It might also find its reputation going into the Top 16 blemished by losing to a last-place team so handily. Alba had an all-around effort that included five double-figure scorers. John Best led the winners with 17 points, while Jovo Stanojevic, Marko Pesic and DeJuan Collins added 14 each, Stefano Garris 10. Antonio Granger popped in 20 for Efes, Trajan Langdon 18 and Goran Nikolic 10.
Max Schmeling Halle was packed to 7,000 fans with the help of 1,000 Turks from Berlin who were cheering for Efes. But Alba had the better start with much patience on offense and a good inside defense that, during the first 3 minutes, allowed nothing more than a three-pointer by Trajan Langdon. A midrange jumper by Granger and another triple by Langdon brought Efes from 11-3 down to 11-10, but DeJuan Collins answered with 4 straight points for a 17-10 Alba advantage that triggered a first timeout by Efes. Then, the scene changed dramatically: Efes's defense now worked much better, forcing confusion on Alba's offense. On the other end, Granger with 2 triples, Langdon with a fast break and Goran Nikolic with a lucky shot on the siren turned Efes into the leader, 19-22, after 10 minutes.
In the second quarter, Granger and Langdon brought Efes ahead even more, 19-26, before Alba used Marko Pesic as a third guard and the hosts started to get back their rhythm. Chuck Evans dished for a spectacular alley-oop finished by Collins for 25-30, but Efes was not willing to give up the lead yet and went to Nikolic battling inside against Jovo Stanojevic. On defense, Efes switched to a zone, but John Best answered with his first triple for 32-33. After 2 free throws by Ender Arslan, the score at halftime was 32-35 as Granger was up to 13 points for Efes and Stanojevic 12 for the hosts.
Again at the beginning of the third quarter, three-pointers by Langdon and Granger remained the biggest weapons of Efes, but Alba dominated inside with Stanojevic and Best and crawled nearer and nearer to the lead. The game also became much quicker, which worked out especially well for Best, who with 9 straight points put Alba ahead 52-48. Langdon answered with a fastbreak, but Best stayed hot, hitting his next triple, which Stefano Garris copied for the hosts. Efes had no answer for the furious offense of the Berliners, who took a 60-52 lead into the last quarter.
Efes experienced additional trouble inside after a fourth foul to Ermal Kuqo. Even switching to zone defense again, Efes could not prevent Mithat Demirel to boost the Alba lead 64-52 in his first appaearnce after a long injury. Kerem Tunceri, another returnee on the Efes side, scored his team's first points of the last quarter with a triple, but Pesic answered with two ice-cold three-pointers of his own. Efes, with no open looks inside, tried its luck with desperate three-pointers, but only Alper Yilmaz hit any, to make it 72-60, while Garris and Pesic, with his third triple, had the last words in Alba's signature win of the season.
Wednesday, February 4, 2004