Bulgaria got their EuroBasket qualification campaign off to a strong start on Wednesday night as they emerged from a scrappy game to beat Hungary 89-71 in the opener for both teams.
Stuck in a battle for much of the game, Bulgaria dominated the final quarter outscoring their opponents 21-7 to secure a comfortable victory.
The hosts had led 24-16 at the end of the first quarter but Hungary used an 8-2 run to close the gap back to 30-28 when Marton Fodor sank a three-pointer.
Bulgaria got the message and went on a run of their own to build their first double-digit lead, 40-30, on Filip Videnov's three-pointer.
Hungary would not go away and began chipping away again in the third period. Down 55-50 with 4:42 left in the period, Balazs Simon made a jump shot and Andras Molnar followed with a three-pointer to tie the game for the first time at 55-55.
It was back at 60-60 with 2:08 to go before Bulgaria began to pull away again through Deyan Ivanov's jumper and Videnov's long-range shot, and they finished the third period up 68-64.
It was early in the fourth that the hosts began to take control for a second time, reeling off 11 straight points before Hungary could get back on the board through Tamas Kaman's jump shot.
Ibrahim Jaabar led Bulgaria with 23 points, while Videnov made five of 10 from three-point range to finish with 15 points, a total matched by Ivanov who also added 12 points.
Stefan Georgiev also reached double figures with 14 points.
Erno Sitku led Hungary with 15 points while Kaman and Istvan Nemeth each had 13 points.
Lajos Maeszaros, head coach of Hungary
The Bulgarians had great motivation because of Pini Gershon. I knew that they have great players, both outside and inside. We lost three of our centers before this game - one refused to play for the national team, others were injured. Bulgarians played very well in the last quarter and they took us to the ground. We just couldn't score any basket from inside and that decided the outcome of the game.
Pini Gershon, head coach of Bulgaria
The coach doesn't matter, the team matters. For us, everything is possible. We lost two players before the game, too. It is our first game with such small amount of turnovers - just 6. I was satisfied with our offence in the first half, and in the second half we played well both in offence and defense. It is great for Bulgarian basketball that young players like Chavdar Kostov and Bozhidar Avramov play in national team and tonigth they played well. I know that the fans now are going to have bigger expectations, but I'm sure we can play even better.