By Kevin Anselmo
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.”