12 - 20
August 2023
13 Vyacheslav Bobrov (UKR), 15 Viacheslav Kravtsov (UKR), 31 Olexandr Mishula (UKR)
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OPQT's: Ukraine win OT thriller, host Turkiye far too good for Iceland

ISTANBUL (Turkiye) - The FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament 2023 in Istanbul started with a bang as Ukraine beat Bulgaria in an overtime classic and host Turkiye took down Iceland.  

With Paris 2024 Olympic dreams at stake, here's a recap of the action on day one from the famous city in Turkiye. 

Ukraine edge Bulgaria in overtime after wild finish in regulation

With host and hot favorite Turkiye headlining Group C, the opening clash between Ukraine and Bulgaria had been seen as crucial.   

A close contest was anticipated, but a blowout seemed likely when a slick Ukraine jumped out of the blocks through red-hot shooting from Oleksandr Kovliar to lead 35-10 early in the second quarter. 

Oleksandr Kovliar was the star baller for  Ukraine

Bulgaria slowly clawed back and the game went to script in a see-saw second half with wicked changes of momentum.  They remarkably had their first lead when Aleks Simeonov hit a tough three-pointer with just 1.6 seconds left to give Bulgaria a 68-66 advantage. 

After a timeout, a brilliant inbound pass from Viacheslav Petrov found Viacheslav Kravtsov, who scored inside the paint and was fouled by Aleks Simeonov.  Kravstov missed the game-winning free-throw, but it didn't matter as Ukraine dominated overtime to record a vital 80-71 win. 

Kovliar finished with 25 points and 7 assists, while shooting guard Pavlin Ivanov led Bulgaria with 18 points but shot just 7 of 21 from the field. 

 Turkiye start in ominous fashion to storm past Iceland 

Host Turkiye -  boosted by NBA players Alperen Sengun, Omer Yurtseven and Furkan Korkmaz - were expected to easily handle underdog Iceland, but were locked in a fierce battle early. 

Inspired by their passionate fans, Turkiye lifted their intensity in a dazzling 29-5 run in the second quarter to overwhelm Iceland, who had no answers. 

They cruised to an easy 99-72 victory and had seven players in double figures with Yurtseven and Sehmus Hazer leading the way with 13 points apiece. Orri Gunnarsson played a lone hand for Iceland with 20 points.

Top performers

Oleksandr Kovliar ignited Ukraine with 14 points early to lead his team to a commanding lead. The shooting guard also came alive late to finish with a game-high 25 points, including 6 of 14 from three, 7 assists and an efficiency of 21.

In-form Vyacheslav Bobrov was a workhorse in the paint to finish with 11 rebounds to go along with 9 points to exemplify Ukraine's gritty approach. 

Orri Gunnarsson was the only player from Iceland to score in double digits with 20 points, including 6 of 9 from 3.  He finished with an efficiency of 19 - more than double the next best on his team. 

Playmaker Brandon Young kept Bulgaria within striking distance and made big plays to finish with 16 points and 8 assists. He had a team high efficiency of 18.

Turkiye star Alperen Sengun is probably the most hyped player in the tournament and the Houston Rockets big man started in strong form with 10 points and 7 rebounds in just 15 minutes.

Photo of the Day

Turkey enjoyed several rim-shaking dunks, including Ercan Osmani whose thunderous slam was celebrated with gusto from the home fans. 

Highlight of the Day

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Obviously, the end of regulation in the Ukraine and Bulgaria instant classic takes the cake here.  The clutch plays from Aleks Simeonov, Viacheslav Petrov and Viacheslav Kravtsov in just over a second helped light a fuse under this tournament on the opening day. 

What a start!