|Lukoil Academic head coach Jovica Arsic will be dissapointed his team could not protect a nine-point lead in the last two minutes of the game|
Lukoil Academic moved a step closer to the Eurocup Regular Season by beating BK Prostejov in the opening leg of their Qualifying Round tie on Tuesday.
Playing in Bulgaria in front of their own fans, Jovica Arsic's team led by as many as 12 points before prevailing 70-65.
They will travel to the Czech Republic next week for the second leg.
Lamont Mack, Lukoil's 24-year-old small forward, had 17 points while Lukoil also sank 19 of 21 (90.5%) free-throws.
The good shooting at the line was one reason why Lukoil advanced to the EuroChallenge Quarter-Finals in 2010-11 as they ranked sixth overall.
Their run in Europe ended when eventual champions Krka Novo Mesto beat them in a close tie.
Lukoil's biggest advantage on Tuesday came with 2:25 to play in the first half when point guard Andre Owens buried a jump shot.
They may end up regretting not claiming a bigger advantage in the first leg, though.
With 2:06 to play, young Bulgaria international Bozhidar Avramov sank two free-throws for a 68-59 Lukoil advantage.
Prostejov maintained their concentration until the end and closed the game on a 6-2 run to give themselves a decent chance of overturning the five-point deficit.
Todor Stoykov and Avramov also reached double figures with 10 points apiece for Lukoil while Jamar Smith finished with a game-high 24 in defeat.
Arsic's Lukoil were full of respect for Prostejov before this tie.
Like the Bulgarian club, the Czech team proved themselves to be tough competitors in Europe because they were in the Last 16 of the 2010-11 EuroChallenge.
BK Prostejov Head Coach Zbynek Choleva:
"I think we weren't in a good shape tonight and we were also a little bit afraid from the atmosphere of the Eurocup qualifications. We missed a lot of shooting positions. Lamont Mack caused us some problems because he was scoring almost every shot and we did not stop him. I believe minus five points is not that bad before the second leg."
BK Prostejov player Travis Peterson:
"It was a tough game. Lukoil is a good team, pretty much the same team from last year. We feel lucky that we come out just five points down and hopefully we will play better in the next game at home."
LUKOIL Academic Head Coach Jovica Arsic:
"Nobody can say if this win by five points is enough, we'll see after the second game is over. The difference could have been more but it also could have been less. I am pleased that we won. We have potential to play better, Prostejov had done a good job with their scouting on our team and they didn't allow us to run our standard game. Some of our players were playing well but they are still not ready to play for 30 minutes. Our new players will probably need some more time to adapt but they proved that they have the necessary potential. The players that we are having back from last season are expected to step up and be relied on them in this qualification round. We would have made our job way easier if we had limited the number of their rebounds on the offensive side. We need to rebound better. I am optimistic for the outcome of the second game."
LUKOIL Academic player Bozhidar Avramov:
"The most important thing is that we won. There was some anxiety within our team, probably because of the fact that this was our first official game for the season. We can definitely play better but we haven't shown it yet. We have a week before our next game to improve our game and get rid of the tension."