Le Mans provided another Group A shocker by thrashing previously undefeated Efes Pilsen 53-64 on Thursday in Istanbul. Le Mans not only raised its record to 2-1, tying Efes and two other teams in second place, but broke a defensive record by holding Efes to just 3 points in the third quarter. Those are the least points ever scored by a Euroleague home team in one quarter. Kenny Gregory led the winners with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds while Sandro Nicevic added 14 on 7-for-9 shooting and 8 rebounds. Cenk Akyol had 14 points for Efes while Niksa Prkacin added 13. Before the game, Efes announced that point guard Horace Jenkins is set to leave the team for the foreseeable future. The name of the game was defense from the start as Efes led 11-9 after 10 minutes and Le Mans took over by 33-36 at halftime. Then Le Mans beat Efes at its own game, however, holding the hosts to just 3 points in the next 10 minutes and 2 more through the midway point of the final quarter. By then, the visitors already had the outcome settled and cruised to an impressive road win.
Efes started four Turkish players in the absence of Jenkins and injured Antonio Granger. Le Mans was the first team to struggled to score, behind limited by the Efes defense to just 2 points in the first 7 minutes, 10 seconds of the ggame. Meanwhile, Efes had 5 points from Akyol, including a three-pointer, and 4 from Gonlum, the second of which a dunk that made the score 9-2. Gregory finally got Le Mans going with a basket, while Pape Philippe Amagou added a three-pointer and Mate Skelin a layup for a 9-9 tie. Akyol ended the quarter by penetrating the Le Mans defense to beat the clock with a layup and give Efes an 11-9 edge.
Le Mans took its first lead to open the second quarter as Gregory's basket-plus-free throw made it 11-12. Both teams was getting warmer minute by minute and Efes soon surged ahead by 5 points as Prkacin’s inside basket made it 21-16. The hosts continued to guard that distance until Skelin went inside, too, for a 31-26 lead. They would be the last easy points of the night for Efes. Le Mans responded by going to Gregory to key an 0-8 run of mostly fastbreaks that gave the visitors a 31-34 lead. Gregory was far from finished as he used the last second of the half to can a layup that left Le Mans in charge, 33-38, going to the lockers.
After no scoring for more than 2 minutes of the third quarter, Gregory stepped up again with consecutive inside baskets, knifing between Ermal Kuqo and Gonlum, that put the visitors 9 points ahead, 33-42. Efes had no response as the Le Mans defense grew in self-confidence with stop after stop. Skelin free throws made it 36-46 midway through the quarter as Efes turned to zone defense to stop Le Mans. Gregory punished the zone with a spectacular dunk and Tyson Wheeler added a layup to boost Le Mans in front by 14 points, 36-50. The last basket by Efes had been a tip-in by Gonlum in the 24th minute, and after that the hosts didn't score again in the third quarter, setting a record for offensive futility by a Euroleague home team. Amagou scored a final Le Mans basket to end the third quarter, 36-52.
Le Mans continued to play defense that Efes could not solve as the hosts now managed to score just 2 points in the first 5 minutes of the last quarter. Meanwhile, Le Mans took the game away, as Eric Campbell's alley-oop midwy through the quarter was the best action of the game and made it 38-58. In the remaining time, Efes tried to cut down the big differance but were only able to get as close as 11 points, 53-64, at the finish, leaving Le Mans with a valuable Group A road win.
Thursday, November 9, 2006