Tau Ceramica cruised past Le Mans Sarthe Basket 86-54 on Thursday night at the Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain, to finish the regular season on a high note. Tau won its 24th straight home game as it improved to 12-2 as the Group A winner. Le Mans dropped to 4-10 and finished its inaugural Euroleague campaign in seventh place. The game was never close as Tau scored the game’s first 6 points, increased the lead to 18-4 midway through the first period and continued to run away. It was 48-22 at halftime and didn't get much closer in the second half as the hosts took the easy win. Luis Scola led the way with 18 points, Igor Rakocevic added 15, Mirza Teletovic 14 and Serkan Erdogan scored 11. Pablo Prigioni had 6 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Eric Campbell led Le Mans with 11 and Pape Phillipe Amagou added 10.
Tau took advantage of it size advantage over Le Mans's frontcourt to earn an early 6-0 edge after 2 minutes. The guests struggled at the beginning, turning the ball over and letting easy points inside the paint. Nicolas Batum ended the drought for Le Mans, but a three-pointer by Rakocevic followed by Scola free throws widened the gap to 11-2. Although Le Mans coach Vincent Collet tried to reinforce Le Mans's defense with Sandro Nicevic, Tau was already hot and kept running the court and scoring with ease. A 7-2 run increased the lead to 18-4 midway through the first period. An urgent timeout by Le Mans didn't change anything, as Rakocevic nailed a corner three and Scola scored under the rim for a 23-4 edge after 7 minutes. Le Mans switched to zone defense at that point and that worked fine as Tau managed to score only 5 points until the end of the quarter. That was enough for the visitors to reduce the disadvantage a bit and reach the end of the quarter trailing 28-13.
Tau started the second period focusing mainly on three-point attempts, but only Erdogan was successful. Despite the poor shooting, the hosts remained comfortably ahead mainly because Le Mans was still committing the same mistakes on offense. A three by Kenny Gregory seemed to awake the guests at 33-19, but Erdogan, Teletovic and Rakocevic came quickly to the rescue for Tau to extend the lead to 46-19. Collet was unable to find the right combination to combat Tau's strong defense, especially in the paint. An acrobatic jumper by Fred House closed the game at halftime with a solid 26-point lead, 48-22, for Tau.
The hosts needed three attempts to hit the first three in the second half as both teams showed up quite cold after the intermission. Gregory and Scola were the only other two players able to find the way to the rim in the first 4 minutes of the quarter, as the differences remained big for the hosts. Teletovic boosted Tau to its first 30-point lead at 57-26 on a bank shot, but Nebojsa Bogavac answered quickly from downtown. House hit the floor dangerously while fighting for an offensive rebound and was quickly replaced by Sergi Vidal with 4 minutes to go. Vidal, after a long period sidelined, was the chosen one to return the 30-point margin on a right-sided three-pointer at 63-31 and that difference remained steady at the end of the period.
Nothing changed at the beginning of the last quarter, as Tau continued to focus on the outside shot, and Le Mans was unable to score a single field goal for the first three minutes. A dunk made by Batum was the only points Le Mans got not from the free throw line, as Tau hit three times in a row from downtown to raise the lead to 77-40. The scoring improved in the last couple of minutes, enough to please a patient crowd. Yannick Bokolo, at the buzzer, closed the score at 86-54 and gave Tau its 12th win for its best mark ever in the first round of the Euroleague.
Thursday, February 1, 2007