Hidayet Turkoglu´s three pointer with 33 seconds remaining helped Turkey to a dramatic 94-89 come-from-behind overtime victory over Bulgaria in Group B of the Preliminary Round held in Podgorica.
Tied at 89, Turkoglu lined up a drilled a straight-on three-pointer from well beyond the line, giving Turkey a three-point lead.
“You must have confidence when playing this game,” Turkoglu said. “I have this confidence and I knew the shot was going in when I took it.”
The win sets up a decisive game between Turkey and Croatia tomorrow for the rights to the second seed in Group B.
Trailing 69-57 with just over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Turkey went on a 22-10 to tie the game at 79 and send it into end regulation. Ibrahim Kutluay hit three huge three-point field goals during that span.
Bulgaria responded at the end of regulation. Trailing by two, center Boyko Mladenov scored down low, tying the game at 79-79 with 11 seconds remaining. Serkan Erdogan had a chance to win the game for Turkey at the end of regulation, but mis-fired on a long off balance jumper as time expired.
Bulgaria opened up a six-point lead to start the extra session on a pair of threes from Todor Stoykov and Dimitar Angelov. But Turkey answered and tied the score at 92 following Mirsad Turkan's short jumper with 1 :27 remaining and two free throws with 1 :14 left in overtime, setting the stage for Turkoglu. Angelov missed a three on Bulgaria next possession and Kerem Tunceri´s two free throws with 14 seconds left sealed the game.
“Bulgaria never quit,” said Kutluay. “But we used our experience to win the game.”
Bulgaria are playing in EuroBasket for the first time since 1993, while Turkey have been a mainstay in the competition over the last decade. The experience factor was also echoed as a key in the game by the two teams head coaches.
“Tonight we beat a very strong team – that is what Bulgaria is,” said Bogdan Tanjevic. “I never give too much importance to experience in professional sports, but I think this was the key in tonight's game.”
“The main reason we lost is because Turkey is a world-class basketball team who knows how to play under pressure,” said Bulgarian head coach Rossen Barchovski. “They've played in EuroBasket for a long time, while this and I think this experience advantage made a difference down the stretch of the game.”
Despite Turkey´s size advantage in the front-court, Bulgaria had a 38-26 on scoring in the paint.
Mehmet Okur, after a dismal seven-point performance on Friday evening, had an unspectacular 13 points and six rebounds. He did not start the third quarter and in his absence, Turkey opened the second half on a 5-0 run. But Bulgaria answered and countered with their own 20-11 run to close the third quarter with a 10-point lead.
Bulgaria lost for the second consecutive time after leading throughout the game. They will take on Lithuania tomorrow in hopes of securing their first EuroBasket win since 1989.
“No question, this was the most disappointing loss in my career,” said Mladenov.
Mirsad led Turkey with 19 points, while Turkoglu finished with 17. Filip Videnov scored a game-high 23 and Stoykov chipped in with 21 for Bulgaria.
After suffering different types of disappointing losses last night, Turkey and Bulgaria will aim for their first victories in Group B Preliminary Round play when the two teams tip-off against each other this evening in Podgorica.
Turkey, considered one of the favourites in Group B with their arsenal of NBA talent, trailed by double digits throughout their 87-75 setback to Lithuania last night. Bulgaria, behind a 27-point performance from Todor Stoykov, led after each of the first three quarters and provided a scare to Croatia before ultimately losing 88-84.
Turkey will have to quickly get over last night´s defeat if they wish to avoid the same fate in the 2003 EuroBasket when they failed to qualify for the second round.
“We need to forget about the game against Lithuania and move on,” said Turkish forward Mirsad Turkcan. “EuroBasket just started so we just have to come out and play in a different way.”
After trailing by 21 points after three quarters of play last night, Turkey outscored Lithuania 29-22 in the fourth quarter. Hidayet Turkoglu of Turkey hopes his team´s fourth quarter play will carry over into the following games.
“We need the same aggressiveness throughout the whole game,” he said. “We can´t get down 20 and then start to play. We have to play our way of basketball for four quarters.”
Turkey will have to find a way to get more offensive production from their star center Mehmet Okur, who was held scoreless for the first 29 minutes of the game against Lithuania and finished with just seven points.
Okur should have an easier time against Bulgaria´s smaller frontline, but head coach Bogdan Tanjevic certainly won´t be taking his opponent lightly.
“We know the Bulgaria well,” he said. “They are a strong team and we have to take them seriously as we do all teams in this tournament.”
Despite a strong showing against Croatia, Bulgarian head coach Rossen Barchovski is looking for more.
“I don´t want our guys to be satisified because we played well,” he said. “Yes, we did play well, but that is not enough.”
The two teams have met 12 times, most recently in 2002. Bulgaria hold the all-time advantage by having won seven of those 12 games.
“We know them and they know us,” Barchovski said. “They are certainly the favourites, but this is a good opportunity for us.”