From the land of Dirk, David Hein reports on a few happenings in Germany’s top division of basketball. Read on to find out about the divergent paths of Brose Baskets Bamberg and Bayern München, Matt Howard’s new home, and the Fraport Skyliners’ surprise win last week.

Brose Baskets fend off pretenders Ratiopharm Ulm
So much for Ratiopharm Ulm wanting to challenge Brose Baskets for the German Beko BBL title. The two-time reigning league and cup champions Bamberg travelled to Ulm and made pretenders out of the supposed contenders, blowing out the season’s biggest surprise team 102-74 thanks to a team record 18 three-pointers.

Ulm were hopeful of a repeat of their close game in Bamberg in October, when they lost by only five points, 64-59. But Brose were at the beginning of the season and simultaneously fully concentrated on starting strong in the Euroleague season.

After beating third-placed Artland Dragons in a “home game” held in nearby Bayreuth to reach the Top Four of the German Cup, Bamberg now need only worry about the league. And Brose coach Chris Fleming was happy with his leaders’ performances in the big game.

“The guys who have been in Bamberg for a while – Casey Jacobsen, Predrag Suput, Brian Roberts, Anton Gavel – knew how much this game meant and they showed it,” Fleming told German media after the game.
Captain Jacobsen stepped up right away in the first quarter with a jumper and back-to-back three-pointers, and then even center Tibor Pleiß nailed a three-ball as Bamberg built a 19-6 lead and never let Ulm back into the game.

Bamberg now have a 19-2 record and a two-game lead over Ulm following their 12th straight victory in the league. Bamberg general manager Wolfgang Heyder welcomed congratulations for the win and was a bit relieved, saying “Now we can afford to lose a game here or there.”

But the way Bamberg are playing, it doesn’t look like they will lose many more games this season – maybe not even in the playoffs.

Still, both Jacobsen and Fleming fended off talk about Bamberg more or less already bagging the three-peat. There remains a long, long way to go.

Bayern Road Woes Continue
While there are still 13 regular season games left, big-name promoted side Bayern München are slowly running out of time to catch themselves from their freefall.

Dirk Bauermann’s big money team lost 70-68 at TBB Trier for their 12th straight road loss and eighth consecutive in the BBL. Bayern have still not figured out how to win tough, close games away from the Audi Dome, as the defeat marked Munich’s fourth by three points or less.

At 11-10 – 10-1 at home and 1-9 on the road – Bayern are eighth in the standings and in the final playoffs spot, with the same record as ninth-place New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig and one game better than Telekom Baskets Bonn.

Another last-minute Braunschweig blunder
Braunschweig coach Sebastian Machowski has to be kicking himself these days. His team has lost its last two games in overtime – and both games should have been victories.

On February 5 against Eisbären Bremerhaven, Braunschweig were ahead three points in the waning seconds. Instead of fouling and sending Bremerhaven to the free throw line, Machowski’s men allowed Jason Cain to hit a three-pointer to force overtime, where Braunschweig lost by misfiring on five free throws in the extra session.

Then on Saturday against Fraport Skyliners, Braunschweig stormed back from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime – actually 18-year-old point guard Dennis Schröder missed a free throw after the game-tying layup which would have decided the game. In overtime, Braunschweig were ahead by two with seven seconds left and sent Marius Nolte to the foul line. Nolte made the first but missed the second. Braunschweig’s Immanuel McElroy failed to box out and watched as Jimmy McKinney went over him to tip in the game-winner.

Ludwigsburg get big name Matt Howard
EnBW Ludwigsburg are second-to-last in the BBL and suffered a big hit when Donatas Zavackas bolted Germany for Latvian side VEF Riga. Ludwigsburg management went out and brought in a big name as a replacement, signing 23-year-old Matt Howard, who had represented Butler University in the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Tournament finals and started his rookie season with Greek powerhouse Olympiacos.

“Matt Howard brings a lot of experience despite his young age. He has already gotten his feet wet in European basketball with Olympiacos,” said Ludwigsburg coach Steven Key. “I am convinced that he will help us in the coming weeks with his playing, human and winning qualities.”

Germany-based David Hein is often (justifiably, we think) dubbed by BiE as “the hardest-working man in European sportswriting.” Aside from contributing to BallinEurope, FIBA’s official website and the Bundesliga Basketball League official website, he also writes for numerous German- and English-language outlets on sports from soccer and basketball on down. Check out far-ranging samples of his work at heinnews.com.

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