With their backs against the wall, facing a potential five-game losing streak to open the season, Anadolu Efes responded with championship resilience to secure their first win of the new season on Thursday at Sinan Erdem Sports Hall.
Efes entered the game with multiple starters sidelined, including reigning EuroLeague MVP Vasilije Micic, so Shane Larkin and his teammates had to find ways to pick up the slack. They did so in unison, with no player scoring more than 15 points, but nine players cracking the scoring column to defeat a tough UNICS Kazan team, 71-68.
Efes was led in scoring by Rodrigue Beaubois and Elijah Bryant with 14 points apiece. Bryant, in his Efes debut, came off the bench and proved to be an instant jolt of offense for his club, shooting five-of-11 from the field. Shane played the role of distributor in their victory, recording a team-high five assists along with eight points and two of the team’s 10 steals.
Efes, now 1-4 in EuroLeague competition, forced 10 steals on UNICS thanks to increased on-ball pressure. That’s double the steals Efes averaged in their previous four EuroLeague games, and it proved to pay off as their hounding defense frustrated the Russian side and led to a much-needed victory. Efes also came into the game with an emphasis on crashing the glass, as they pulled down 11 offensive boards to create second chances for their halfcourt offense.
The home team got off to another slow start, trailing by four after one, but opened the second quarter with a 5-0 burst to grab the lead, with Shane hitting the team’s first three of the game two minutes into the second period as Efes took a 23-22 lead. Still they trailed by five at half-time and four after three quarters. However, Efes got huge late-game contributions from Adrien Moerman, who scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, including two vital threes and a dunk that started a 9-0 run that put Efes on top, 56-53.
Efes shot the ball extremely well from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter, making four-of-seven from deep while UNICS hit just one of their six attempts from the perimeter in the final frame. When Moerman hit his second three with 2:08 left to play, it all but solidified the result, despite a last-ditch 8-4 run from UNICS in the final 100 seconds of the game.
Despite pulling out the win, Efes head coach Ergin Ataman still believes the team isn’t playing up to their full potential.
“I hope that our injured players will come back and we will start to play our regular basketball,” coach Ataman said. “This is not our basketball, but anyway, we found the way to win.”
Efes plays again on Saturday, October 23 in a Turkish League matchup with Galatasaray. Their next EuroLeague game comes on October 27 against Panathinaikos, who is also 1-4 in the league so far this season.