De Colo, Higgins praise CSKA’s second-half defensive effort against Anadolu Efes

PHOTO: EUROLEAGUE.NET

On Thursday, CSKA Moscow scored over a hundred points for a second time in a Euroleague game this season, but it was the team’s defensive effort in the second half that helped secure an important win (102-84) against a surging Anadolu Efes squad, the Russian team’s stars Nando De Colo and Cory Higgins told TalkBasket.net after the game.

“Our defense was the key. We knew they were a good team, they’re having a good season so far. They have many good players offensively, and we didn’t do well on the defensive end in the first half. After the break, we were a lot more aggressive, played more collectively, and considerably improved our game,” said De Colo, who added another memorable performance to his resume, scoring 21 points, dishing out six assists, grabbing five rebounds and making three steals to earn the game-high 30 index points.

The seven-time European champs were tireless on the boards, outrebounding the opponent by a lopsided 41-24 margin, and grabbing 21 offensive rebounds!

“I think rebounding was huge for us today, we had a lot of offensive rebounds that gave us many extra possessions. After a poor rebounding performance against Fenerbahce two days ago we proved that we can be a really great rebounding team as well,” said Higgins who scored nine points in less than 19 minutes on the floor.

Led by one of the premier shooters in the league, Rodrigue Beaubois, who went 4-of-4 from the three-point line in the first quarter, Anadolu Efes was shooting the lights out from beyond the arc, making 52 percent (10-of-19) in the first half. Most of those were uncontested open shots, something Dimitris Itoudis definitely wasn’t happy about when his team returned to the locker room at halftime.

“Everybody was really disappointed with our defensive performance in the first half. We gave up 54 points, they had a lot of open shots, and we knew that we can’t win games like that, so we had to change our mindset and play better in the second half,” adds Higgins.

And they did. After 20 minutes of play, CSKA had six turnovers against Anadolu’s three. In the second half, everything changed. The “Army” put more pressure on the perimeter and continued to sweep the boards on both ends of the floor. The Turkish team’s ballhandlers were apparently having trouble feeding their teammates as CSKA’s stifling defense forced them to commit turnovers. When the final buzzer sounded, the visitors had 17 in the “turnovers” column against CSKA’s 12.

“Like I said, our defensive attitude [after the interval] was much better. We were more physical getting through screens, and were able to wear them down and force them to make some costly turnovers, which really helped us in the second half,” added Higgins.

Following Thursday’s victory, CSKA remains third in the standings with an 11-3 record and the same number of wins as Real Madrid (11-2), which plays Bayern Munich on the road on Friday.

“It’s a long season, we got one game until the halfway point. Obviously, we think we can be much better, so we just have to correct the mistakes we made during the first half of the season, and try to have an even better run in the second half,” concluded Higgins.