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GB defeat Hungary away in opening EuroBasket qualifier

By Rob Dugdale

Pops Mensah-Bonsu lines up a basket against Hungary
Pops Mensah-Bonsu scored 14 points and claimed 18 rebounds

Great Britain made a strong start to their European qualifying campaign with a 91-82 win over Hungary.

Luol Deng hit 32 points, his highest for GB, and Nate Reinking added 16 points. Pops Mensah-Bonsu and the improving Dan Clark had 14 points each.

Hungary stormed back from a 12-point half-time deficit to lead 69-67 going into the last period.

But in a nervous finale, Reinking hit eight points and Mensah-Bonsu and Deng five each as GB won in Szolnok.

The victory gives GB the perfect start to their bid to qualify for next year's EuroBasket finals in Lithuania, a vital target as they try to convince world governing body Fiba they are competitive enough to play as hosts in the London Olympics.

Deng, who plays for Chicago Bulls in the NBA, hit seven of GB's first 12 points in his first international for two years.

"I think I forced it a little at times," he said afterwards. "But I enjoyed it - I always enjoy playing with this team and for this coach [Chris Finch]."

Although GB trailed at the end of the first quarter, they dominated the second, with Clark adding seven points to Deng's nine as GB held their hosts scoreless for four minutes to establish a 54-42 lead.

The third quarter was all Hungary, their top scorer, Adam Hangar driving for 12 points as a vocal crowd in a hot and poorly ventilated arena got back into the game.

But GB opened the fourth quarter with Reinking back from foul trouble and he and Deng hit threes to get the lead back.

"Getting Nate back in the game was a big advantage for us - he made some big plays," said GB coach Finch, whose team had lost three of four internationals coming into qualifying, but without Deng on the team.

"Luol's such a smart player - he's a team player and we've seen it before. It takes some time to settle down and it'll get better."

606: DEBATE

Late on, Mensah-Bonsu, who finished with an extraordinary 18 rebounds in the game, and Andrew Sullivan had vital rebounds for scores to keep Hungary at bay after Reinking had chipped in with two more vital jumpshots.

"Nate hit some big shots for us tonight," said Deng, who completed his high score with two free throws with 10 seconds remaining but said he was unaware that the score was his highest yet in a national team jersey.

GB now have a game day off before their next international, against Macedonia in Newcastle next Sunday.

That period off is something Finch is relishing. "It's like going through pre-season again after playing our first game," he said.



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see also
Superstar Deng spreads the basketball word
16 Aug 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
Deng back for vital GB qualifiers
31 Jul 10 |  Basketball
GB 'must work harder' for 2012
30 Jul 10 |  Basketball
Finch confident of Deng's return
12 Apr 10 |  Basketball
Coach calls for GB trio to commit
14 Feb 10 |  Basketball


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