Basketball: Bullets fire off blanks at Moscow

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Birmingham Bullets discovered that six wins out of 15 games in the Carlsberg League left them short of confidence when they faced CSKA Moscow in the opening men's game of the World Invitation Club tournament at Crystal Palace last night, writes Duncan Hooper.

The Russian champions have won 10 out of 12 in their league this season and the 99-80 win over Birmingham gave them a solid foundation to improve on last season when they lost in the final to Guildford Kings.

The Bullets were game enough and the scrapping of England's Tony Simms and the American Billy Singleton earned enough offensive rebounds to keep CSKA's 3-2 zone on its toes.

On offence the Russians had too many options and with five players at 6ft 8in or over to nurse the 7ft rookie, Igor Kurachov, the Bullets were overpowered on their own boards.

The fast break fired by Sergei Antipov created easy openings for Vladislav Krondratov and Igor Kudelin, while the shooters, Maxim Astanin and Sergei Olbrecht, arrived late on the trail to leave Birmingham often chasing shadows. In another match last night, USK Prague had a

93-91 win over Stuttgart.

Guildford, who open their defence of the title tonight against Solna, of Sweden, have recalled the American Tyrone Shoulders.