EWE Baskets Oldenburg enjoyed a strong start to Group F of the 7DAYS EuroCup Top16. It beat the hottest team in the competition, Umana Reyer Venice, who showed up at Grosse EWE Arena with an eight-game winning streak and the second-best defense, allowing just 71.3 points per game to its opponents. Oldenburg lived up to the challenge, managed to exceed that scoring mark in just 26 minutes and to finish with 98 at the end of the game.
The offensive excellence of Oldenburg is nothing new, as the team had surpassed the 100-point mark twice in its last two home games. The team scored 102 against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica and 108 against Dolomiti Energia Trento and was just 2 points away from reaching 100 on Wednesday. Great ball movement, high shooting percentages and balanced scoring - all the players that stepped into the court contributed - are some of the explanations for that awesome performance but, is it that all?
There is something more. And it was Oldenburg's defense. Looking at the stats, there are several clues to follow. First, Oldenburg protected its rim quite well as it allowed just 5 offensive boards to Reyer, which resulted in only 4 second-chance points. Second, it got 13 fast-break points and 20 points off turnovers. Easy ones coming from awesome pressure on the ball that provided 7 steals in the first quarter and forced Reyer into 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Good enough to recover from a slow start and build a double-digit lead at halftime that never was seriously threatened.
As one of Oldenburg’s best players, Rickey Paulding acknowledged: "It all started with our defense, we knew they are a good team and we wanted to stop them. I thought we played very good pick-and-roll defense. We forced 11 or 12 turnovers in the first half."
He saw it crystal clear; when you play good defense that grants you easy buckets, offense comes along. "We were able to make some easy baskets and we got confidence in offense," Paulding said after the game.
Oldenburg head coach Mladen Drijencic shared the same opinion: "I think we played great defense in the first half. We forced their turnovers and stopped their key players and in offense we moved the ball well, played aggressive and that [allowed] us to take the shots with confidence."
Likewise, forward Philipp Schwethelm stated that "our main focus was to play good defense, which resulted in some turnovers on their side."
They all emphasized the same point. Oldenburg's big win started on the defensive end.