Mission: Promotion to battle complacency and growing expectations
Munich, January 9 - Bayern's head coach Dirk Bauermann was adamant in the pre-match press conference that his team would continue to play at the high level from the first half of the season. After the first 20 minutes Saturday night against USC Freiburg, it seemed the Bayern players were still on holiday as they trailed 39-35 at the half.
However Steffen Hamann poured in 20 points, and Aleksandar Nadjfeji and Darius Hall controlled the paint with 17 and 16 points respectively as Bayern Basketball shook off the slow start and kept the team on track for promotion to the top league with a 79-72 win. Bayern fell behind thanks to a frenetic crowd and Paul Gause's 20 points for USC. However Bayern's halftime adjustments and talent took over to lead the team to victory.
"Every game from here on out will be a challenge," said Bauermann before the match. "Everyone understands the goals and the expectations and realize the targets on their back as every team will want to beat the favorites."
Despite the close win, Bayern continue to be the favorite to be on top of the league as they have won seven of eight on the road and seem destined to earn a promotion as they continue to roll over teams. And that will be the challenge in the second half of the season for Bayern - can they get up for games against teams they easily defeated only weeks earlier? Their next match is at USC Heidelberg, at team they beat by 28 points on opening night in Munich.
Bauermann does not think it will be an issue. "We had a great start to the new year, all the players came back from holiday on time and in shape. We have had great practices leading up to our first match. I trust the players and their professionalism going forward. My job is to keep them focused during practice and each game."
Another challenge will be if the team can avoid the distraction of the big game down the road against the team that handed them their only loss and sit right behind in second place. On February 20th the match against the s.Oliver Baskets from Würzburg has been moved to the Olympiahalle. The original allotment of 8000 seats was sold out before the New Year and 3000 additional seats have been added. And the match will be broadcast on Bayern TV.
But before that match, Bayern return home on February 5th to host the Dragons from Rhöndorf, tipoff at 19:30.