|Bulgaria forward Hristo Nikolov led all scorers with 26 points in his best game of the Qualification Round so far |
A 26-point haul by Hristo Nikolov helped Bulgaria complete a terrific 94-77 success against Azerbaijan to boost their chances of progressing from Group B of the EuroBasket Qualification Round.
Having been soundly beaten 88-73 in Baku, the home team didn't waste any time in setting about gaining revenge.
They jumped out to a healthy 18-7 lead which set the tone for a great opening quarter which saw them increase their advantage to 26-13.
In a real contrast of styles, Bulgaria wasn't exactly shy in trying their luck from downtown whilst Azerbaijan relied on pounding away inside via Charles Davis and Aleksandr Rindin, a strategy which helped them to cut the gap to six points at the interval.
However defensively, Azerbaijan was far too lax and that allowed Bulgaria to re-establish their superiority when the teams returned for the second half.
The hosts poured in 31 points during the third quarter to give them a 68-47 cushion going into the final ten minutes.
With both teams perhaps having one eye on basket difference and a possible impact in a potential future tie situation, Azerbaijan threatened a fightback with a 15-7 run but Bulgaria finished with a flourish to secure a super win.
Ivan Lilov registered an excellent 17 points in 19 minutes for the winning team whilst Orhan Haciyeva was the stand-out performer for Azerbaijan with an impressively efficient 16 points and 11 rebounds.