s.Oliver Würzburg started the 51st season of the German Basketball League with a home defeat on Friday evening: In the tussle between two aspiring playoff contenders, the home side from Lower Franconia lost to MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg by 72:81 (37:42) in front of 3,140 spectators in the sold-out s.Oliver Arena. The game’s top scorer was Alex Ruoff, who notched up 25 points for the visitors on his return to the German league. Jake Odum (17), James Southerland (10) and Lamonte Ulmer (10) got into double digits for Würzburg.
“I told my team the whole week that Ludwigsburg would try to dominate us with its physical play. And that’s exactly what it did. Too many of my players did not do their job,” was how Doug Spradley summed up the game afterwards. The analysis by Würzburg’s Head Coach was mainly directed at the second and third periods – his team got off to a good start and almost managed to turn the game around after trailing by 19 points.
Lamonte Ulmer scored Würzburg’s first points of the new season – his lay-up in the first minute and his bucket from outside despite having a hand in his face in the second minute gave the home side an early 5:0 lead. And everything went smoothly for s.Oliver’s marksmen to begin with: With seven minutes played, seven players had already got on the board to put their side 19:8 ahead.
Not surprisingly, it was Ludwigsburg’s aggressive defense that turned the game around: The visitors managed to disrupt Würzburg’s rhythm in offense. A 10:2 run initiated by two buckets from beyond the arc by Kelvin Martin and Alex Ruoff, cut the deficit to 21:18 before the end of the first period. Chad Toppert tied the scores at 23:23 with another three in the 13th minute – after which the encounter was evenly poised for a long time.
Then Alex Ruoff – who chalked up 17 of his 25 points in the first half – drained a three with the score at 37:37 shortly before the break, after which center Jack Cooley added a lay-up to give Ludwigsburg a 5-point lead at half-time.
The second half began with a bucket from outside by Max Ugrai to make it 40:42. However, the home side did not manage much more up to the 28th minute against Ludwigsburg’s defensive specialists – a 20:5 run by the visitors from Swabia opened up a 19-point gap (43:62 in the 28th minute). Yet Würzburg did not give up: It reduced the gap to 51:64 by the end of the third period and, spurred on by playmaker Jake Odum with 12 points after the break, continued its comeback in the fourth quarter.
With just over three minutes to go, it looked like the game could be turned on its head, when Maurice Stuckey drained a three and Jake Odum added a floater to cut the gap to 66:72. Yet the visitors had the right response in this situation, too, and refused to let victory be snatched from their grasp. Another three by Alex Ruoff (68:77 in the 39th minute) sealed the game.
As part of its tough start to the season, Würzburg now faces two games on the road at the weekend: against FC Bayern Munich (Friday) and medi bayreuth (Sunday). Its next home game is on October 7, when the German champions Brose Bamberg visit the s.Oliver Arena.