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Great Britain escape to gutsy win over Macedonia

By Rob Dugdale
BBC Sport in Newcastle

Luol Deng goes for a slam dunk. Photo by Mansoor Ahmed.
Deng helped GB overcome a fourth-quarter deficit and snatch victory

Great Britain came from behind to win a dramatic European qualifier against Macedonia, 104-96 in overtime.

Man of the match Pops Mensah-Bonsu had 27 points, nine of them in the extra period, and Luol Deng added 23.

Great Britain trailed 83-76 to the group leaders with 2:36 remaining before escaping to force overtime.

In the extra period, GB dominated utterly, establishing a 99-92 lead through the efforts of Mensah-Bonsu and captain Andrew Sullivan.

GB had looked set to lose in a home qualifier for the first time since 2006 when their visitors hit an 8-0 run to establish a seven-point advantage late in the fourth quarter.

Their comeback thrilled the crowd in the first game in Northumbria University's new arena.

Deng, who had an excellent all-round game with 11 rebounds and nine assists, hit a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining to force overtime at 87-87, after Dan Clark rescued a missed free throw from Mensah-Bonsu.

Mensah-Bonsu said after the game. "I think most of my plays came from the attention that Luol got from their defence and his ability to find me in good positions."

He also confirmed that he has signed with Tau of Spain to play in the Euroleague next season.

In the extra period, GB trailed only briefly before Andrew Sullivan and Mensah-Bonsu combined for eight points in an 10-0 run that secured the game.

Even when we were down I felt we were still controlling the game

GB coach Chris Finch

Sullivan, whose offensive game has seen a rebirth this season, finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, his best GB showing for three years.

Clark and shooting guard Nate Reinking had 11 points each. Naturalised US guard Bo McCaleb hit 30 points for Macedonia, who had three players foul out of the game.

"Even when we were down I felt we were still controlling the game," said coach Chris Finch.

"Our guys did a great job of staying focused and we found a way to make plays."

The effect of six days of preparation and no travel after the game in Hungary had showed immediately in GB's performance.

They looked more able to create chances without having to put the ball in Deng's hands and their defence looked less porous than it had in the opening game in Szolnok.

They had a 24-12 lead after a thunderous Mensah-Bonsu dunk capped a 10-3 run featuring threes from Deng and Dan Clark in the first quarter.

But Macedonia have earned a reputation in Europe for patience and in a game with a very high foul count (59 in 45 minutes), they had - and took - chances from the free throw line.

They worked their way back into their first lead, 51-50 early in the second half, and never trailed by more that six points until the extra period.

GB's win keeps them unbeaten in Group B ahead of Wednesday's game in Sarajevo against Bosnia and with two more home games to come after that against Ukraine and Hungary, both in Birmingham.

"We've had a fantastic second camp, if you will, here in Newcastle," added Finch.

"Everybody in the city, the venue and the hotel have all treated us well. We have to take advantage of those two games. Protecting your home turf in group play is vital."

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see also
GB beat Hungary in Euro qualifier
02 Aug 10 |  Basketball
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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