Sevens Up for Bayern
Audi Dome, Munich – The extra skip in FC Bayern Basketball’s step has returned and one cannot ignore the reason being the change in head coaches. Svetislav Pešić has provided direction and a calming influence to the team packed with talent.
And it’s one of those players who has recently stepped up, signaling the new, confident Bayern.
Robin Benzing scored 16 points as Bayern defeated BBC Bayreuth 84-72 for the team’s seventh consecutive victory and now sit in 3rd place in the BEKO BBL. Benzing has scored in double figures in six of those games, providing another scoring option and stabilizing the defense for a team that only a month ago was going nowhere.
“Consistency is still an issue for us,” assessed Pešić. “We haven’t reached it; I don’t know when we will. That’s what we need, to play the entire 40 minutes, to be a top team.”
Coming into this game, Bayern and Bayreuth were two teams going in different directions. But BBC were ready to battle, keeping the Reds close by creeping back each time. Down 17-12, Jason Cain scored four points to help tie it at 18 apiece, but Bayern took a 22-18 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.
Arvydas Siksnius and Nicolai Simon promptly hit three-pointers to tie the game again at 24, but Benzing teamed up with Chevon Troutman, each player scoring 7 points to build a 49-39 halftime lead. After the break, the Auto Show continued, Benz with a trey and Chevy a score, 56-45 and Bayern were running away.
BBC woke up, however, going on a 14-4 run thanks to three-pointers by Kevin Hamilton and Peter Zeis, and six points by Cain from the charity stripe. A bucket by Gary McGhee made it 60-59 with 1:14 left in the 3rd quarter.
Yotam Halperin coolly answered with a trey seconds later, 63-59 and that helped give FCB the 65-61 lead heading into the final quarter.
Simon pulled BBC to 69-65 with 8 minutes to go, raising the nervous level once again at the packed Audi Dome. Jared Homan made it 71-65, and soon after that, Cain fouled out, removing the one player Bayreuth needed if they were to make a comeback, their leading scorer in the game would finish with 16 points.
“Big issue for us who can get to the free throw line for us, attack the basket, get points in the paint and we clearly lost that when Cain fouled out,” said Bayreuth head coach Marco van den Berg.
Benzing scored to continue the FCB run that would end 14-0 in total, breaking open the game, 83-65 with two minutes left.
“If we can play an entire game like we did in the 4th during our 14-0 run, with intensity, and that defense, the game is easy,” said Pešić.
“We just didn’t have enough weapons tonight,” admitted van den Berg. “At the end, Bayern displayed their quality. There were a few points where we found some adrenaline to fight back, at the end, the air was let out of our balloon.”
“At the end of the game, they executed better than us,” added BBC guard Bryan Bailey, who scored 10 points. “They forced us out of the paint, and forced us to take long jumpers, when our jumpers weren’t hitting, they got the rebounds. And then they came down on offense and scored.”
Bailey’s comments are supported by the key stats, as Bayern outscored BBC 48-28 in the paint, and 12-4 via fast break points.
The key during this win streak is Benzing. Yes, Troutman is scoring more over the last games including 13 points on Sunday, and Tyrese Rice continues to be the spark in the offense, adding 11 points in the derby win, his 15th time in double figures this season. But it’s Benzing that’s been the difference.
The 23-year-old forward only scored in double figures twice during the team’s first 11 games, as FCB struggled to a 5-5 record under Yannis Christopolous and a loss in Pešić’s first game, 82-70 in Berlin, the team’s third in a row. Benzing scored 21, 18 and 14 points respectively at the beginning of win the streak. After a night off during a blowout of Bremerhaven, scoring only 5 points, Benzing roared back with a 21-point game and then then his first double-double – 14 points and 13 rebounds – in the win against title-favorite and his former team ratiopharm ulm.
“It’s easier to play with Pešić – he knows me, he knows my strengths and gives me the opportunity to show my strengths,” said Benzing, who also played for Germany during this past summer’s Eurobasket 2013 qualification. The coach for the national team for qualification – Pešić, who lead the team to an undefeated run.
“It’s not just me, it’s everybody,” added Benzing. “The whole team, how we are playing. The fourth quarter we showed how we want to play. Head coach is doing a great job with us, how he gives us self-confidence, in how we practice, in how he communicates.”
Bayern (12-6) will head into the All Star Day break in third place (ratiopharm ulm and EWE Oldenburg have similar records, but tie-breaking scenarios have Ulm in 2nd and Oldenburg in 4th). FCB will have a chance to claim second place all for themselves when they travel to ratiopharm Arena on January 27th for a rematch against Ulm.
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Bayreuth drop to 8-11 and 15th in the league table, hoping the two-week break will offer respite and recharge.
“The last couple of games we are playing better,” Bailey recalled the recent wins against ALBA Berlin and Telekom Baskets Bonn. “We just gotta keep working hard in practice and come with the right mentality. Everything starts on defense for us, if we get stops, we can get out and run and make some easy baskets.”
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