By John Askounis/ email@example.com
Robin Benzing returning to Casademont Zaragoza last summer was met with optimism. The Spanish club was back in European club competitions for the first time in four years and players the likes of the German forward arriving showed that goals for the team remained as high as it gets. Overcoming its sluggish start with recent breathtaking displays, Zaragoza clinched a Basketball Champions League playoffs spot with a couple of games left in the Regular Season.
Tuesday’s road win against JDA Dijon lifted Porfirio Fisac’s squad to 8-4 and in the Round of 16. The Spanish outlet tied its Gameday 12 opponent in first place. By completing the two-game sweep over the French team secured the tiebreaker advantage. With a home game versus PAOK and a trip to Italy for Happy Casa Brindisi remaining, Zaragoza holds the first option for top seeding in Group D. First place also ensures home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Benzing was the player of the match at Dijon. He sank a career-best eight three-pointers and nearly surpassed his personal-high in points pouring 32. Scored 33 in an easyCredit BBL game back in 2011 and in a junior international affair back in 2009, also matched his personal-high with Zaragoza he set in a home loss to Movistar Estudiantes in May of 2017.
32 points in 24 minutes
“He was the key of the game” proclaimed head coach Fisac pointing at Benzing during the press conference following the triumph in France. It was a clear convincing victory indeed powered by the 30-year-old forward. His 8/11 threes combined with 3/4 inside the rainbow made out the game-high 32 points. He also tallied a couple of rebounds, one steal and one assist in just under 24 minutes of work.
“This was a perfect game for us,” he took out afterwards stressing the importance of playing according to the game plan, “We were prepared. We did the stuff from practice.”
“We stopped their point guards. I know David very well from the past and he got zero points today.” he added commenting on David Holston remaining scoreless in 25 minutes for the hosts, “That was heck of a job from our point guards and two-guards. We did our part in defense.”
Winning streak down the stretch
A solid squad included Zaragoza in the preseason BCL favorites. Seemed stuck in tight Group D, but with four wins in a row turned a difficult situation into a Round of 16 berth. Similar displays combined with the potential upcoming home-court advantage can definitely take the Spanish club far into FIBA’s premier club competition.
“In offense we really shared the ball and made shots,” mentioned Benzing summing up his team’s outstanding performance at the Palais des Sport Jean-Michel Geoffroy, “We had problems with three-pointers. I think we can shoot the ball very well. Today we finally just made the shots.”
Making the shots meaning 17/33 beyond the arc and 41/67 field goals. Shooting 61.2% on the road is impressive and paired with the defensive effort generated the win by a margin of 32 points.
“My teammates found me and I did my job shooting the ball,” he replied to a question on his own offensive contribution, “The luck was on my side today and I scored.”
Second BCL campaign
Benzing was around last time Zaragoza traveled around Europe participating in the 2015-16 7DAYS EuroCup campaign. Previously went through a couple of EuroLeague seasons with FC Bayern Munich. Debuted in the Champions League last season with Besiktas and followed up with 12.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per BCL contest so far with his current side.
Aside returning to European club competitions, Zaragoza is building on its strong 2018-19 ACB campaign. With 10.7 points per appearance, Benzing is an integral part of Zaragoza pushing upwards. Already qualified for the 2020 Copa del Rey set to take place in February at Malaga, at 13-5 the northern Spain club only trails powerhouses Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in the standings.
Season looks promising. Basketball Champions League brings an intriguing addition proving that Fisac and his players are capable of juggling their way through both competitions securing results in the process.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League