Standard Life Great Britain got their EuroBasket Qualifying campaign off to a shaky start, as they defeated a plucky Hungary side, 91-82 in Szolnok – 100 kilometres south-east of Budapest.
The Brits were led by Chicago Bull Luol Deng’s 32 points, as he led all scorers on the night. American-born Nate Reinking poured in 16 points and Pops Mensah-Bonsu contributed 14 points and 18 rebounds – as the visitors made hard work of what many pundits thought would be a comfortable victory. Hungary were led by Adam Hanga, as he secured a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.
After a fast paced introduction, which saw the hosts take a 29-27 lead at the end of the first stanza. It was the visitors who made the running in the second quarter – and looked fairly comfortable, going on a 18-5 run just before half-time, as Deng, who scored 20 points in the first two quarters, oozed class in a sports gym that was earlier described by the locals as a sauna. Both teams looked exhausted as the third quarter progressed. Young Dan Clark, who warmed the bench for Great Britain at EuroBasket 2009, was impressing coach Chris Finch, as he hit seven points in the second quarter – he ended with 14 points.
Hungary found their second wind though – and stormed to a 10-0 run, as the home fans were getting more and more behind their team, as Hanga and Peter Lorant tore holes through Britain’s frontline. The home side’s constant pressure played off, as they edged into a 71-68 lead, only for Deng to silence the loud support with a three-pointer to tie the contest at 71 a piece.
It was nip-and-tuck for most of the fourth quarter, but Great Britain, who opened the period with Reinking and Deng sinking vital triples gradually eased clear of their opponents. But, another onslaught from the Hungarians followed to make the finale a tense one. The Brits held their own though, as Deng and new recruit, Ogo Adegboye sunk vital free-throws to give Chris Finch and Great Britain a winning start
“This was a big win for us” said coach Chris Finch. “Hungary are very good and they shot the ball well in the first half.
“We made some big plays down the stretch. The guys gutted it out. Wins on the road in this group are worth two”.
Great Britain now can rest for a day, before they play on Sunday at home to Macedonia, who beat Ukraine 71-58. Pero Antic hit 24 points for the victors, in what turned out to be a good evening’s basketball for the visiting sides.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net