Staiger Dagger Pierces French Defences

04 September 2013

6. Per Günther (Germany)
Per Günther let his emotions out following a famous German victory

Turning Point: It could have gone either way. Then Lucca Staiger converted two threes in 58 seconds which proved decisive as the fourth quarter neared its end.
Stats Don't Lie: Germany shot 90% in the opening nine minutes. They ended at 60%. As France's coach Vincent Collet declared, that was too much at this level to cope with.
Game Hero: Robin Benzing was immense. He scored a game-high 19 but lived up to his billing as the new leader of this team, coolly hitting Germany's final five points. But he also took on tough defensive assignments. He will be one to watch in this EuroBasket. 

In a day where form and favoritism counted for little in Group A, Germany provided the ultimate surprise by picking off France 80-74 in Ljubljana.

It was well-deserved. Their shooting and their execution was exemplary. The initial showing of the 2011 runners-up was anything but, with Lucca Staiger, who had 14 points, sealing victory with consecutive threes in the closing minutes.

More than anything, it was a validation for a new generation who refused to be intimidated by the A-List on the opposing team.

"That was probably an easy game for us because we didn't have anything to lose," German coach Frank Menz admitted. "We played France twice in the preparations which was very helpful. We had respect for them but it would have been much bigger if we'd played them here first."

Five three-pointers were converted by Germany in a torrid spell in the opening quarter, the last from the hands of Robin Benzing to cap a 15-2 run which pushed the underdogs 27-14 ahead with just ten minutes gone.

Their pick and rolls, their movement, were exemplary. Heiko Schaffartzik, now a veteran, led by example, ending with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Nine of their first ten attempts had found the net. It, inevitably, could not last but at half-time, France still trailed 43-39.

With Tony Parker's influence growing, 12 unanswered points, capped by a three from Antoine Diot, sent the French in front at the start of the fourth.

Again, the Germans maintained their fight, Tibor Pleiss - who shot a perfect five-for-five - making the slam which put his side up 67-65 with 3:54 to go. It needed someone to step up. Nicolas Batum held up his hand. He drained a three, then pulled up for a two, forcing Frank Menz into a timeout.

It all hung in the balance. The young Germans hung tough. Staiger soared, notching back-to-back threes to secure a 75-72 advantage. On the second, he missed the chance to make a four-point play but it only heightened the drama.

Parker drove inside. Gap down to one. The Germans raced onwards and this time, it was Benzing who converted from long range with 19 seconds left.

Left with little option, Batum had to take an open three but it fell short and it was left to Benzing to complete the upset from the line.

Parker had a team-high 19 points for France but they will need to seek improvements when they take on Great Britain on Thursday. Here, said coach Vincent Collet, they allowed the Germans to gain confidence and it was a costly mistake.

"We knew before this game that they were a shooting team," he said. "The fact they started so well put them in a good rhythm. We did better in the second and at the beginning of the fourth we were in a position to change the game. But we couldn't get the stops and we let them score."

  

 


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