|Anton Dikov sparked Bulgaria with 15 points on solid 6/12 shooting from the field|
Day 2 of the Qualifying Round saw Bulgaria spring a real upset in Group F by beating tournament hosts Montenegro with 72-61 in Osnovna Skola Jugoslavija in Bar, Montenegro on Tuesday evening.
Bulgaria rode a strong defensive effort to celebrate their survival in the race for the Quarter-Finals but now face another win-or-go-home game tomorrow against Russia.
Montenegro now are facing a difficult task as only a win over Spain tomorrow will assure a top finish and with a loss they might be facing a three team tie with Turkey and Bulgaria.
If both teams win their games and Montenegro lose the locals would finish third in the group.
If Bulgaria win and Montenegro lose they will also finish third while if Turkey win, Bulgaria lose and Montenegro losethe hosts will take second place.
"We are very happy about this win today," commented Bulgaria play caller Georgi Dimitrov after the game.
"The key was our defense. We played switching defenses and managed to take Nikola Ivanovic out of the game. He is very important to the Montenegrin game, if you stop him they are in trouble.
"We prepared very well for this game and it looked like we surprised Montenegro with our defensive set-up.
"Now, since Poland could not help us [with a win against Russia] today we must win tomorrow against a very tough opponent."
Denislav Vutev was the top scorer for Bulgaria with 20 points alongside 14 rebounds out of which 7 were collected under the opponent's basket and Deyan Karamfilov dished out 9 assists to go with his 9 points.
Nikola Ivanovic stayed quiet for his standards and finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists for Montenegro who were led in scoring by Dusan Perovic with 15 points.
Vutev scored the first points for Bulgaria and Aleksandar Vezenkov added a triple to open a quick 5-1 lead for his team but Montenegro gave early signs of life with a triply by Nenad Vukovic.
Both teams went scoreless for a while until Nikolay Stoyanov buried another long range shot and give Bulgaria an 8-4 lead.
That broke the ice and Montenegro hit right back as both opponents exchanged blows in the next offences but Bulgaria coming away on top with a 16-8 after 5:40 of game action and two consecutive three pointers by Kris Minkov and Anton Dikov.
Both sides traded three pointers and the home team added another lay-up by Perovic to close the first quarter down 19-15.
The beginning of the second quarter was nervous and turnover prone and it took both teams almost two minutes to score until a three pointer by Vassil Mihaylov gave his team a 7 point lead.
After four minutes it was Mikovic who ended the pains for Montenegro and scored a lay-up to make it 24-17 but it were Bulgaria who quickly answered with another score and a split pair of free throws by Stoyanov to push the gap to double digits at 27-17 with 5 minutes to play until half-time.
But then it was Nikola Ivanovic who fueled his team's offence and jump started a 7-1 run in which he contributed 5 points to make it 28-24.
Bulgaria had different plans though and followed up with two buckets only to watch Montenegro closing the half strong with two more scores of Luka Durovic to set a 33-29 half-time score that left the second half completely open.
Milos Pajovic opened the second half for Montenegro but Bulgaria were right back with scores by Dikov, Stoyanov and and a free throw of Vezenkov to make it 40-33 after three minutes.
Montenegro responded and got another make out of big man Perovic but still looked out of rhythm.
Bulgaria used their opponents' struggle to make another push and used a Vutev jump shot and a Stoyanov lay-up as well as Denis Karamfilov's jumper to stretch the difference to 12 at 47-35 with 3 minutes to play in the third quarter.
The next two minutes saw Montenegro waking up again and Milija Mikov running wild with seven consecutive points on his own.
The hosts then tried a press but got caught by a three pointer of Vezenkov that sealed the quarter at 52-42 and had Montenegro facing serious trouble in a low scoring game.
The nervous crowd crowd witnessed Bulgaria going up even further with the first score in the final quarter before they were brought back to life by a three pointer of Vasilije Vusovic and a steal and lay-up by Ivanovic.
Bulgaria however did not look impressed and hit right back with consecutive jumpers by Dikov and Karamfilov to stay up 58-47.
Switching to zone defence did not really help the Montenegrins as they found themselves still down 62-49 after a lay-up by Vutev and the following bonus shot.
With 2:50 to play things did not look any better for the local side as both teams had exchanged 5 points each and Bulgaria looked down from a 67-54 mountain.