Czech star Jiri Welsch scored 31 points to help his side open their EuroBasket 2007 qualifying campaign with an 85-67 win over Belgium.
Welsch, who recently returned to Europe and Unicaja Malaga after a seven-year stint in the NBA, shot 10/17 (including 5/6 from three-point territory) from the field and a perfect 6/6 from the free throw line for his 31-point haul.
Versatile forward Lubos Barton, a EuroCup winner with DJK Joventut in 2006, teamed up with Welsch in a decisive second quarter for Czech Republic.
|Lubos Barton had 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists against Belgium|
But Welsch found center Ondrej Starosta for an open dunk at the end of the first quarter and the Czechs led 21-20.
The Czechs then opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run, including a dunk, lay-up and three-pointer from Barton, to jump ahead, 32-24.
Belgium threatened to cut into the Czech advantage before halftime and a bucket from Roel Moors made the score 40-36. Moors then had the chance to reduce the lead further, but blew two free throws with 22 seconds to play, while Welsch answered with a pair from the line to give his side a 42-36 halftime lead.
While Welsch cooled off slightly in the third period (he scored only three points), Ladislav Sokolovsky picked up the slack. He scored seven points as the Czechs increased their advantage to double digits, 63-51 after 30 minutes.
Czech Republic effectively killed off the game with a 10-2 run to open the final quarter.
Welsch started the run with a jump shot and Sokolovsky followed that up with a steal and three-pointer. Welsch then turned the ball over, but made up for the error on the next play with a three which saw his side take a 71-53 lead with just under seven minutes to play.
Welsch finished off his night's work with a three-pointer, followed by a dunk and the Czechs had an unassailable 81-61 lead with two minutes to go.
Teamwork proved to be a key component of the Czech Republic's victory. Barton, Sokolovsky and Starsota all scored in double figures and the Czechs dished a total of 18 assists to Belgium's 6.
Belgium face a tough challenge against Russia at home on Saturday, while Czech Republic will look to continue their winning ways against Hungary on the road.