Audi Dome, Munich - FC Bayern Basketball may not continue their European season, but they left an impression that the other Beko BBL teams will have to take notice for the remainder of the season.
Jared Homan scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, combining with Chevon Troutman's 13 points and 8 rebounds, and together their toughness solidified the the paint to dominate Cedevita Zagreb 80-65 in the final group match in the Eurocup.
The Ballers jumped out to an early 25-17 lead in the 1st quarter, hitting three shots from beyond the arc. In their first match at Zagreb, Bayern shot made one 3-pointer, clearly the difference in the 70-64 loss. But this time, Troutman, Robin Benzing, and Jonathan Wallace all hit from downtown early.
Meanwhile, Cedevita could not buy a 3-pointer, going 0-for-4. They hit eight in the close win in November. And their cold shooting touch continued into the 2nd quarter.
They missed five more shots from long-range and after making two early 2-point baskets, they did not score again for FIVE minutes. In the meantime, Bayern went on a 13-0 run to build the lead that they would ride to victory.
"We opened the game so soft, we looked like we were waiting for the end of the game," said an embarassed Cedevita head coach Drazen Anzulovic.
The view was quite the opposite on the other bench. "Our team has played our best basketball so far this season, tonight and Saturday against Trier," said Dirk Bauermann, the pleased Bayern head coach. "We had great ball movement, and our defense was of high quality."
At halftime, the stats were clearly in Bayern's favor: 56%-33% FG percentage, 22-11 rebounds, and 10-4 assists. Zagreb's leading scorer and last year's Eurocup MVP Dontaye Draper was rendered ineffective, as the defense held him to only 7 points on two field goals.
After the break, Zagreb were intent in getting back into the game, scoring the first three buckets and cutting into their deficit. But that's when Troutman and Homan took over, scoring points, grabbing the key rebounds, and asserting their presence on the floor to hold the lead.
"We could not find an answer inside with Homan and Troutman," agreed Anzulovic.
"We are the older guys, and Coach has put an emphasis on getting the ball inside," observed Homan. "But it could be anyone stepping up and getting the energy level back up."
Troutman agrees with his colleague at center. "As a team, we are playing better, we weren't timid. We have to continue playing with the confidence that we've shown in the last couple of games."
And the final stanza was more of the same. The Croatian team were battling, but the lead was too much against a team that has found their stride over the past two games.
Jan Jagla, Stephan Hamann and Wallace nailed treys to ice the game. Wallace has found his offensive touch, scoring 14 points and Hamann contributed leadership on the floor with 7 points and 8 assists.
Zagbreb did finally hit a three-pointer, finishing 1-for-17, and Draper would get his 15 points, but he was no danger to the Bavarians.
"We are cleary better now, we have such quality on the team, we do what we do best and see what we can accomplish," said Robin Benzing, who also scored double-figures, finishing with 14 points.
The early exit from the Eurocup is clearly a disappointment for Bayern, but the coach and team take the experience as a positive for the rest of the BBL season.
"It was definitely great experience for me and for the team," said Benzing. "We played tough opponents in the group and we can take a lot away."
"I'm sad that this Eurocup season is over," Bauermann told the media afterwards. "We left a good impression in this tough group, and were very close to get it done. I am disappointed, but I believe in a glass being half-full. The matches have prepared us and we can now concentrate on the BBL championship."
Next up for Bayern is a trip to Würzburg, home of the s.Oliver Baskets, a place where Bauermann's club suffered their worst loss in last year's promotion campaign in the ProA. Tip-off for this Bavarian Derby on Friday is at 18:05 CET.
Editor's note: Salman Mitha will preview the Derby on Friday and will be tweeting from the match. Follow @sal_TMT_sports.