That was a key victory in the battle for a playoff berth. s.Oliver Würzburg defeated GIESSEN 46ers 96:79 on the 24th matchday of the easyCredit German Basketball League and is back in very close touch with eighth place in the table. The top scorer in the game in front of 3,009 spectators in the s.Oliver Arena was Robin Benzing, captain of the German national team, with 24 points, 20 of which he notched up in the second half. “This convincing win over one of the season’s surprise teams is an important signal after the narrow defeat in Frankfurt. We played outstanding basketball in the last thirty minutes,” said Head Coach Dirk Bauermann.
He began the key game against the team just below it in the table with the starting five of Clifford Hammonds, Maurice Stuckey, E.J. Singler, Robin Benzing and captain Kresimir Loncar. The home side was not able to get into its stride in offense in the first quarter due to Gießen’s zone defense, which the club from Lower Franconia tried to break down from outside too often. The first shot from outside by Cliff Hammonds dropped, but the next eleven missed their mark. However, that was not a disaster because the home side defended aggressively and intensively across the board, did not let the visitors have any easy shots and was also able to snap up more rebounds than the 46ers.
“When you keep on investing in your defense in such situations and so stay in the game, then it’s only a matter of time before you get into your rhythm. You just can’t let your focus and intensity slip. That’s a process where we’ve come on a lot since the start of the season,” said Bauermann afterwards.
Gießen was able to open up an 11:15 gap shortly before the end of the first period and also put up stout resistance in the second quarter after Kresimir Loncar, Abdul Gaddy and Robin Benzing had made it 20:17 after 12 minutes with a run of seven points without reply. The visitors struck back right away to move 23:27 ahead. The lead changed hands seven times in the first 20 minutes.
The seventh and final time was when Leon Kratzer added a lay-up to make it 29:28 in the 17th minute. A timeout called by Gießen’s Head Coach Ingo Freyer was also not able to prevent the home side from pulling 35:30 in front at half-time. After the break, it took s.Oliver Würzburg four minutes to build its first double-digit lead, when Robin Benzing drained a lay-up (46:36). The captain of the German national team, as well as Maurice Stuckey, really turned on the heat in the second 20 minutes. Benzing scored 20 and Stuckey 14 points after the break.
Yet the visitors were not to be broken. Whenever the home side extended its lead, the 46ers fought back, usually in the shape of center John Bryant. However, Würzburg’s ninth home win of the season was no longer in serious danger – also because its threes hit their mark after the break. Eight of its thirteen attempts from downtown in the second half were successful – a percentage of 61.5.
The club from Central Hesse managed to cut the deficit to five points for the last time in the 34th minute thanks to five straight points by Bryant. However, Benzing and Hammonds hit back by draining buckets from beyond the arc to make it 77:68, after which Maurice Stuckey stretched the lead to 79:68 from the foul line.
Robin Benzing then sealed victory in the final five minutes by scoring 11 of his 24 points. After an and one to make it 93:73, he was given the honor of leaving the court to the applause of the crowd with 74 seconds remaining and was then chosen as the game’s Most Valuable Player. s.Oliver Würzburg now travel to Brose Bamberg for a Franconian derby on Saturday and then play at home in the s.Oliver Arena against ratiopharm ulm on March 24 (tip-off: 6 p.m.) These two games are likewise “four-pointers” in the battle for a playoff berth.