Audi Dome, Munich - Bayern Basketball head coach Dirk Bauermann kept telling everyone who would listen, that his team is mentally tough, despite the mini-losing streak. He now has a win as Exhibit A.
Jonathan Wallace scored 18 points, including a three-pointer with 2:53 left in the game that gave Bayern the push they needed to hold off TBB Trier 76-70 in front of 5,600 fans Saturday night. The win improves their record to 8-5 and they move up to fifth in the Beko BBL standing.
It sure didn't look like Bauermann's club came to play in the beginning. Trier ran out to an 8-0 run thanks to two turnovers by the home side. Bayern fought back thanks to three pointers from Desmond Greene and Robin Benzing, but Trier scored on six consecutive field goals and ended the first quarter up 23-17.
Bayern shot a paltry 29% in the opening stanza, 0-for-6 for 2-point field goals. Only their outside shooting kept them close, shooting 4-for-8 beyond the arc. And it was that part of their offense that brought them back.
After James Washington's opening trey to build Trier's lead to 26-17, the Bavarians went on a run culminating on consecutive three-pointers. Philipp Schwethelm's trey at 3:23 to tie it at 29 apiece, then Benzing broke the tie 40 seconds later with his third shot from long range. He finished with 15 points. The visitors were not phased, as Oskar Fassler scored four points, keeping his team close at the half, down 36-33.
The second half had both teams trading blows, Trier were game but Bayern were able to build a 56-49 lead in the third quarter. Centers Chevon Troutman and Jared Homan took over the offense during the frame, improving Bayern's inside shooting percentage by scoring the first 14 points for the team.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the question would be if Bauermann's team would once again stop scoring and let their opponent steal the win. Ben Hansbrough's trey increased the lead to 59-51 but then Trier center Maik Zirbes took over inside, scoring three consecutive buckets as part of of a 10-2 run. A technical foul from Homan did not help, and with 3:53 left, the game was tied at 61.
"After the tech foul, things could have gone the either way," recalled Bauermann. "Maybe for other teams it may have been a déjà vu, 'here we go again, finding a way to lose a game'. But we didn't."
Troutman was fouled and converted his two free throws, ending up with 18 points and adding 9 rebounds on the evening. And that set up Wallace's deciding three, a long-range bomb that hit nothing but net and got the crowd on it's feet.
"I felt good, I came in with confidence," said Wallace about his return as the top scorer for the team. "Coming off the bench, I was able to see where I can attack."
Bayern were up 66-61 with 2:54 left. Unlike their last league game when they blew a similar five point lead at Bremerhaven, they held on thanks to 10-for-12 shooting from the charity stripe.
Bauermann was happy to talk about his team's ability to come back and hold on for the win. "When the players constantly hear (they are not mentally strong) after losing a game in Bremerhaven that we should have won and get blown out in Italy, it's mentally hard. You need a lot of character and balls to overcome that, and they did."
"We didn't play exceptionally well today," admitted the one time German national coach. "We fought, we scored the big baskets and got the big stops. It was very important to have won a close game like this."
"I'm happy I could helped the team today," said Benzing, who is an NBA prospect and German national player. His 15 points and 5 rebounds kept the team close. "Trier started great, aggressive and defended well. But we were able to come back, it wasn't easy, we could have folded under pressure, but we told ourselves, 'we can do this'."
Zirbes led Trier with 16 points and 12 rebounds and summed up his team's disappointment. "We started great and came back, but at the end we had some key turnovers and their shots broke our backs," said the young German national. "The biggest difference for us was missing 9 freethrows and committing 14 turnovers."
The Ballers are back in action on Tuesday night, playing their final group match in the Eurocup, hosting Cedevita Zagreb. Tip-off at 20:00 CET.
Bayern were officially eliminated in their last match, getting blown out in Italy 92-66 against the Benetton Baskets. They will leave the competition but hope to go off on a positive note.
"Every game matters, and we are playing basketball to win games," stated Bauermann. "A win will help us prepare for our game in Würzburg (Friday), it's going to be a hostile atmosphere; going in winning two games in a row will help us."