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Würzburg wins away at Avtodor Saratov in the first leg of its Round of 16 game in the Europe Cup

Saratov, 03-06-2019

s.Oliver Würzburg won the first leg of its game in the last sixteen on the road at the Russian representative Avtodor Saratov to chalk up its eighth straight victory in the FIBA Europe Cup. The 79:76 win on Ash Wednesday means that Head Coach Denis Wucherer and his team take a three-point advantage into the second leg on March 13 and can even afford to lose narrowly on their home turf but still advance to the quarter-finals of the FEC. Würzburg’s top scorers in an all-round team performance were Devin Oliver and Xavier Cooks with 15 points apiece. All ten players got on the scoresheet, while Cameron Wells was just two assists and two rebounds short of chalking up a triple double.

Good defending throughout the entire forty minutes was the key to victory. Saratov had achieved an average of more than 96 points a game in the FEC going into the encounter. The first half indicated that number would be far lower this time: “We didn’t perform as we would have wanted in offense, but our good defending kept us in the game,” said Florian Koch. As a result, a game that was tight and exciting from beginning to end and was characterized by a large number of small runs ensued in Saratov’s Crystal Ice Sports Palace.

Neither team was able to open up a gap of more than five points at any stage of the encounter and the lead changed hands 16 times in the first half alone. The visitors from Lower Franconia led narrowly for large stretches of the first period, which ended with the home side taking a narrow lead (24:23). The encounter remained tight and changeable in the second quarter, until Saratov was able to open up a 39:34 gap thanks to a bucket from beyond the arc and a lay-up by the former Munich player Boris Savovic shortly before the break.

Johannes Richter added two free throws to make the half-time score 39:36 and directly after the break s.Oliver Würzburg struck back again after trailing by five points. Skyler Bowlin drained a three and Mike Morrison buried a thunderous slam-dunk to make it 44:44, forcing Avtodor to call a timeout, after which Felix Hoffmann added a further bucket from downtown.

The game continued in the same vein until the end: At one stage Würzburg was ahead by five, then Saratov snatched the lead back with an and one by its top scorer Trae Golden and a jump shot from David Kravish. After Denis Wucherer called a timeout, his players recaptured the lead in a spell in which Xavier Cooks set up seven points and drained two lay-ups to make it 70:72 after 36 minutes.

Yet the roller-coaster ride was far from over: Two minutes later, the home side was ahead again after producing a run of six points without reply (76:72). However, those were to be its last points of the game, as the final 130 seconds were all s.Oliver Würzburg. First of all, Skyler reduced the deficit to 76:75 with his second bucket from outside, then Cameron Wells drained a jump shot with 14.4 seconds left on the clock to make it 76:77, the 26th and last time the lead would change hands. In the end it was a block by Xavier Cooks against David Kravish, a long pass by Skyler Bowlin and a lay-up after a fast break by Devin Oliver on the buzzer that meant the encounter finished 76:79.

“We’re very happy with the result, but it’s only half-time in this duel,” said Head Coach Denis Wucherer afterwards: “We did a very decent job in defense today over the forty minutes, but there’s still room for improvement in offense.”