Cibona VIP of Croatia threw its card as a contender in Group A on Thursday by knocking Efes Pilsen of Turkey from the ranks of the undefeated with a defensive-minded 64-56 win in Zagreb. Cibona did it with defense, limiting Euroleague leading scorer Marcus Brown to 16 points and his two most dangerous teammates, Kaspars Kambala and Antonio Granger, to 7 between them. Although offense wasn't the name of the game, guards Marijan Mance and Davor Kus stepped up when Cibona needed them for 15 points each, while Haris Mujezinovic added 12 and Matej Mamic 10. Cibona raised its record to 2-1, the same as Efes, Benetton Treviso and Skipper Bologna. Barcelona leads the group at 3-0.
It was another defensive dog fight, but that's the way Cibona coach Jasmin Repesa likes it. That's no secret to his players, who know that if you don't play defense, you don't play. Period. The second half was the best defensive half Cibona played for a long time, not only this season. Brown and Granger were shadowed at every turn. They got no cheap points, no open shots. Cibona's lead increased from 6 points to a high of 14 near the end of the game.
It was a low-scoring first half, 56 combined points. It was a case of missed layups by both teams, with two'unexpected heroes. Jasmin Repesa took a gamble with his starting five. It was, more than anything a bench team. Davor Kus, Slaven Rimac, Dzevad Alihodzic, Tomislav Ruzic and Barisa Krasic. That gamble, to some extent, paid a dividend after a poor start, but only in the first quarter. Efes Pilsen took a 5-0 lead, and had the advantage most of the first half, even though their best scorers, Brown, Granger and Kambala, never really got comfortable, the latter two missing shots. Meanwhile, Kus was Cibona's hero, scoring 10 points in the half, but he had only sporadic help from the rest of the team. Cibona was leading 15-14 after the first quarter, and in the second, Efes fought back and went ahead 30-26 by the half. That turnaround was thanks to Jurica Goleca, who became hot in the closing minutes and finished the half with 12 points, 10 of those in the second quarter, including 2 three-pointers.
With such low scoring already, either team could have taken control with a nice run, and the one to do it was Cibona, which tore off on a 14-5 spree in the third quarter and never looked back. Mance was the man of the match for Cibona, for he took care of scoring and defense, where he had the responsibility for Brown. Repesa, who rarely plays with the same lineup for more than 5 minutes, liked what he saw in the third quarter. Kus, Niksa Prkacin, Mance, Mujezinovic and Mamic went all the way in third, when Cibona scored 23 points as compared to 26 in the whole first half. Though Cibona's defense was strong, Efes hurt itself at the foul line, missing 12 free throws. Efes also played most of the second half without Golemac, Kambala and Granger and it showed. The visitors finished shooting just 39% from the filed, and when points were needed, there was little hope left for the visitors to shoot their way back in the game. The lead hit 14 for Cibona midway through the final quarter, and the truth of the outcome was already clear.
Thursday, October 24, 2002
Neven Berticevic, Zagreb