Game Preview: Szolnok v Gaziantep

26 April 2014

Gaziantep head coach Jure Zdovc
Gaziantep head coach Jure Zdovc tries to find the right motivation for his players and himself after a disappointing semi-final loss

Szolnoki Olaj head coach Dragan Aleksic summed up all psychological prep talk for the third-place clash in the EuroChallenge Final Four, between his team and Royal Hali Gaziantep, in one sentence.

"This game will be decided on which of the two teams recovers faster from losing the semi-final. I hope it will be us," Aleksic said on the eve of the Sunday encounter.

"For us, every win here would be a big success," the Hungarian team's coach added.

"We were already fourth two years ago [in the 2012 EuroChallenge Final Four] and now we want to win this because, in any competition, third place is on the podium.

"We really want it and we will do everything we can to take it, for us it will be a little bit like winning the competition."

There is no shortage of reasons for aiming for the consolation prize in Bologna then, but that does not necessarily generate conviction among the players.

The biggest challenge for Aleksic and just about any coach in the history of basketball since the concept of a Final Four tournament was conceived, is how to motivate a group of players within less than 48 hours after missing out on their real objective, winning the trophy.

From the outside, it sounds like a very demanding task.

"Absolutely. Right now, I can hardly motivate myself," asserted Gaziantep head coach Jure Zdovc, only half-joking.

"But since we must play this game, I've tried to explain to my players that it's very important to go home with a win.

"It will be another thing once the game gets under way, regardless of what has happened before.

"Once the game has started you just want to win, no matter what."

The pride of professional athletes and presenting to them this game as a chance to prove their real worth provides both coaches with some kind of leverage.

"I will see how some players will react, because some players owe us something from the semi-final," Zdovc said.

"It will be interesting to see how they will play tomorrow (Sunday).

"And for sure we will rotate more, using players who did not play a lot in the semi-final.

"Not because we underestimate the game, we will do everything to win.

"But because firstly, they deserve to play more and secondly, because we need everyone to get in the rhythm for what awaits us now in Turkey."


44. Péter Lóránt (Szolnoki Olaj)
Szolnok have been dominant on the glass, with Peter Lorant leading the team's rebound statistics


Gaziantep are fully immersed in the play-off race in the Turkish BEKO TBL and are playing the three most crucial games of their domestic season upon their arrival from Bologna.

The first task at hand for Zdovc and his players however is overcoming the, quite big, even in literal sense, hurdle of Szolnok.

"They have some experienced players and they are very physical," Zdovc said of the Hungarian team.

"We know how to play against physical teams because we come across them in the Turkish league, but it also creates us problems because our players do not have the same degree of physicality.

"So I am bit worried."

Aleksic on the other hand admires certain qualities of Gaziantep that were evident even in the semi-final loss on Friday.

"I saw them [Gaziantep] for the first time in the game against Reggio Emilia, they look like a very disciplined team," the Szolnok coach said.

"On offence they run the pick'n'roll and try to create solutions from that.

"Defensively, they are really good.

"Their '4' and their '5' are very mobile; they rotate all the time and try to close the paint."

Gaziatep will surely want to close down the paint on Sunday, as Szolnok out-rebounded Triumph 44-26 in the semi-final and came within one whiff of winning thanks to their second-chance points.

"They dominated on the boards, but that is only one part of the game," Zdovc offered.

"We also had more rebounds than Reggio, but we still lost the game.

"To win on Sunday, we must play fast, share the ball more and execute better."

Aleksic agrees that offensive efficiency will be the key factor in the third-place game.

"In the semi-finals, all four teams had big pressure on them and they were low-scoring games," Aleksic said.

"The guys missed a lot of shots that they would usually make.

"Tomorrow (Sunday) the team that finds its shooting rhythm first will win the game."



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