Mixed Success For Russia, Bulgaria Rebound With Victory

28 August 2006

Russia lost two and won one in the Vivatel Cup in Bulgaria as their EuroBasket qualification warm-ups ended on a low note following a good start.

The Russians, preparing for their Division A, Group C qualifiers which begin at the end of the month, beat Israel but suffered defeats to Croatia and Bulgaria.

Things got off to a promising beginning for the Russians in Varna with a 97-92 win over Israel on August 22.

Nikita Morgunov (Russia)
Nikita Morgunov scored 17 for Russia in a win over Israel.
The sides were well-matched for much of the clash but Russia ran away with the third quarter, winning it 34-23, to establish an unassailable lead.

Nikita Morgunov top-scored with 17 points, edging ahead of team-mates JR Holden and Sergey Bykov who each added 16.

Such form eluded them in the following match, which they lost 90-78. Croatia led the way in each of the first three periods and even a final quarter fightback - where Russia scored 27 to Croatia's 14 - could get them back into it.

Holden remained on good form as he top-scored with 18, while Nikolay Padius added 16.

The final match, on Thursday, was equally chastening as Bulgaria scored 30 points in the final quarter to run out 94-79 winners.

Filip Videnov, with 27 points, and captain Todor Stoykov, with 20, shone for

"The tournament went increasingly well for us. That's important for me," said Bulgaria coach Rosen Barchovski, whose team lost two games to start the tournament.

"Now I'll give the team some rest, and then we are going to work for a couple of more days before our first qualification game.

"Despite the win over Russia we are standing firmly on the ground. We had problems with motivation in many of the (previous) games, but before the Russia game we talked and the team captain Stoykov managed to unite the team."

Barchovski also confirmed he would be retaining a squad of 14 for the qualifying campaign, where Bulgaria meet Sweden, Poland and Ukraine in Group A, reducing it to 12 on match-days.

"Later on we can reduce the squad, but this is going to be decided on the fly. Our big reservations so far are with the guards, but I expect that they will fulfil their potential eventually.

"Right now Yordan Bozov and Yuliyan Radionov are the two most important players in the squad."

The Russians tip-off their qualifiers with a home match-up against Austria on August 31 before games with the Czech Republic and Belgium.

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