Ben Hansbrough is back; a look at the recent clash between FC Bayern Munich and Spartak St. Petersberg.

It doesn’t seem fair that when one of the Eurocup’s powerhouse teams comes in and displays a dominant performance in a respected opponents house while running away with a huge win, that we end up talking about a guard, on the losing side, who had scored only four points in the previous three Euroleague rounds. But it was Ben Hansbrough, the 2010-11 Big East Player of the Year, who single-handedly spurred Bayern Munich to a thrilling third quarter comeback against Spartak St. Petersburg and in doing so, revitalized his career.

Stuck in former German National Coach Dirk Bauermann’s dog house since arriving in Munich this season, Hansbrough, in a rare opportunity, took the keys to the car and didn’t look back. He scored a team-high 13 points, dished out 3 assists and grabbed three rebounds in just 23 minutes of action and provided Bayern with a spark at the point guard position that it had been missing for most of the season.

Hansbrough has a bit of dog in him and I mean that in the best possible way. Barely playing in 2011, Hansbrough took his opportunity, fought and didn’t back down, in the process looking like the point guard of the future for Bayern Munich. Bauermann’s favorite and longtime friend and compatriot, Steffen Hamann, has been given the majority of responsibility at the point this season even though his play has been poor and inconsistent, carrying on from his lacklustre outing as the starting point for Germany at Eurobasket 2011. Not playing despite being a highly touted off season acquisition, speculation had arisen that Bauermann was not a fan of Hansbrough’s lack of experience and ball-dominant ways, but injuries to guards Je’Kel Foster and Jonathan Wallace have thrown Hansbrough into the rotation. Whereas Hamann makes reckless forays into the paint that often end badly due to his lack of finishing ability and poor court vision, Hansbrough can get to the ring, and finish there, while also using his passing ability to get his teammates involved.

A key was Bauermann allowing Hansbrough to play his game. The ball went through his hands frequently and he usually made things happen. This came in the form of finding guys off the pick and roll, hitting shooters in the corner with no-look passes across the offense or by disturbing the defense with his quickness. He hit a number of tough threes at crucial times and his ability to effectively get to the basket was extremely crucial, especially in times of desperation for the home side. After a fantastic third quarter comeback in which Hansbrough actually brought the home team in front at one point, Bayern eventually crumbled, losing by 12. At some point the marriage between Bayern (or specifically Bauermann) and Hamann has to end and it may just be that the club has already found his replacement.

The final score, 72-60 was not truly indicative of how close the game actually was. Spartak was absolutely dominant in the final term and held the margin at about 16 points for the majority of the period. It was a demoralizing spectacle. The Munich audience had been on their feet and very loud up until that point but was left with heads in hands as Spartak made shot after shot.

Led by a trio of foreigners: Patrick Beverly, Yotam Halperin, and Loukas Mavrokefalides, Spartak has been one of the better teams in the Eurocup and one of the few that remain undefeated. Their starting lineup is maybe the best in the competition and they also feature a few guys who contribute off the bench. In comparison to Munich, which constantly relies on the scoring from two or three guys, Spartak has a group of proven players, each of whom can score at any point.

Beverley is the only American on the team (Bayern has six) and came into the game averaging almost 15 points and over four rebounds per game. He only scored nine in this one, missing all six attempts from beyond the arc, but handed out five assists had three steals and energized his side with his quickness and slick ball handling. Super athletic despite being only 6 ft., Beverley had two very nice finishes in the paint, one in which he lulled his defender to sleep before beating him off the dribble, spun into the key and dropped a pretty floater over a much taller Bayern defender.

Halperin, out of Israel, is a smooth shooting wing player with size and a nice handle. He scored 10, grabbed six rebounds and handed out six assists in a typically nice all-round effort. A focal point of the offence, Halperin spreads the floor (shooting nearly 42% from deep), but also can penetrate and score at the ring.

Spartak’s leading scorer and probably their best player is Greek big man, Loukas Mavrokefalides. Fundamentally sound, Mavrokefalides has hook shots, post moves and a very nice jumper. He hit everything from mid-range to the point where it was becoming ridiculous; at one stage catching an inbounds pass at his chin, and releasing a contested jumper from there that grazed only the net. Bayern, possessing a deep front court of their own, had no answer to Mavrokefalides (averaging 15 points on 60% shooting) and he proved to be a big difference maker en route to a 14 point outing.

For Bayern it was also a chance to get a look at the new front court lineup. Center Jarred Homan (Iowa State) was acquired two weeks ago from Italy and his pairing with former Pitt star Chevon Troutman (also a late acquisition from Italy) looks to be a great duo for the next couple of seasons. Both are huge with size that allows them to dominate the boards and get easy buckets underneath and they each possess different skills that make them a double-headed scoring monster. Troutman is an offensive machine with jump shots, fade aways and hard takes to the cup(Eurocup averages of 14 and seven, team-highs) while Homan has a nice touch from certain spots. The two clearly need more time together as they had a number of sloppy moments, but this a front court that could do some real damage if they continue to grow together over the next season or two.

Eurocup Round 4 Top Performers

Tiago Splitter, Valencia Basket

I would’ve thought Spurs big man Tiago Splitter would be on his way to the States in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season. Evidently not: 18 points, 8 boards and an 83-59 win for the Brazilian.

Jonas Valanciunas, Lietuvos Rytas

After the 2011 NBA Draft all the noise was about how Valanciunas was set to be a future All-Star. I watched him at great length at the Eurobasket and while I don’t necessarily agree with such sentiments, the kid (he’s 19) is definitely solid. Tyson Chandler solid. While Chandler has never been an All-Star, he remains a very good basketball player at the most important position on the court. I think Toronto will be happy with that. 13 points, 11 boards, 2 blocks.

Andrija Zizic, KK Cibona

Zizic had a 16 point, 12 rebound night as his team lost by a basket. Normally a loss will keep you out of this list; I have to include a guy that managed 12 free-throw attempts while drawing seven fouls.

Rudy Jomby, BCM Gravelines

The Frenchman scored 23 points on 3-6 shooting from deep in a 97-74 win for Gravelines.

Fabien Causeur, Cholet Basket

Another Frenchie, Causeur gets a mention for this stat line: 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 7 drawn fouls.

Arminas Urbutis, BC Rudupis

In 25 minutes, Urbutis managed to not only foul out but also score 17 points, draw seven fouls, shoot 9-10 from the charity stripe, and grab 11 boards. Three point victory over CEZ Nymburk.

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