Basketball: Huggins hopeful of claiming Spain scalp

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ENCOURAGED BY England's victory over Denmark, Roger Huggins believes Spain can be beaten today in Leon. The 87-70 win against the Danes in Birmingham on Wednesday was England's most impressive of European Championship qualifying, fuelling hopes they can reach the finals in Paris next summer.

England trail the unbeaten Spaniards, who finished fifth in last summer's World Championships in Athens, and second-placed Israel in Group C. The four third-placed teams with the best records in the five groups qualify for the finals in France.

"It's going to be tough, but we can go in there and get a result," said Huggins. "You stay in the game, you play tough and you never know what can happen. We can stick around and perhaps we will be able to get a win."

Huggins, who put in a solid performance up front on Wednesday with 15 points and seven rebounds, just as importantly provided a spark in defence, coming up with six steals.

"I've been struggling with this national team of late because I tend to sit back and watch the other people do a lot of the work," Huggins said. "Against Denmark I figured I'd take my shots if I got them, run the floor, rebound. I enjoy banging with the big guys, and most of all I like being part of a team that likes to work together."

Any hopes England have of shutting down Spain depend on Steve Hansell and Ray Carter slowing down Morgado de la Fuente, Nacho Rodrigues and Gordo Corrales - depending on whom coach Lolo Sainz chooses to play in the point guard position.

The other key will be Bucknall's ability to guard Real Madrid's Alberto Herreros, who hurt England with 20 points in Plymouth.