|Baris Ermis and Royal Hali Gaziantep could not avoid defeat to Andolu Efes on 1st April|
Royal Hali Gaziantep failed on Tuesday to follow up on last week's famous victory over Turkish league champions Galatasaray, as they lost 71-62 to Anadolu Efes on the road in BEKO TBL action.
With their top-scorer Dejan Borovnjak sidelined through injury, Gaziantep knew they would have to muster another one of their trademark solid defensive performances on Tuesday if they were to challenge Efes.
They managed to do so during the opening quarter, which found the two teams tied at 13, but the hosts found their rhythm in the second and pulled away steadily to open up a 42-27 gap by the half-time buzzer.
Gaziantep reacted after the break but could not reduce the deficit to single-digit levels late in the fourth, largely because of their poor shooting percentage from downtown, as they hit only six of their 28 three-point attempts.
Turkish international Baris Ermis had a game-high 13 points in defeat for the guests and also added five assists, while Oliver Stevic collected a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds and Slovenian international Domen Lorbek finished with 11 points.
"We came here believing we can win this game, as we had shown good form in recent games," commented Gaziantep head coach Jure Zdovc afterwards.
"But a lot of things went wrong. We didn't share the ball enough to find open shots, we made too many mistakes.
"In order to beat Anadolu Efes you need all of your players to be on a good day and that was not the case for us today."
Zdovc and his players can however extract an encouraging assumption from the Tuesday clash, as they controlled the battle on the glass and out-rebounded Efes 41-30, a feat that Gaziantep rarely accomplishes as rebounding is normally one of their weaknesses.
The encounter in Istanbul was the middle part of an enormously challenging three-game stretch for Gaziantep in the domestic league.
The EuroChallenge semi-finalists will be taking on Turkey's third Euroleague powerhouse next week, when they play host to Fenerbahce.
Following the loss at Efes, Gaziantep have dropped to 11-13 and are now tied with TED Ankara and Tofas Bursa in eighth place in the BEKO TBL standings.
The three sides will most likely fight neck-and-neck until the end of the regular season for the last play-off berth, as Besiktas and Pinar Karsisyaka are tied at 14-10 and occupy sixth and seventh spot, with just six games remaining.
Gaziantep are taking on Final Four hosts Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia in the second EuroChallenge semi-final on 25 April.
TRIUMPH FEARFUL OF IDLE HANDS
|Triumph Lyubertsy head coach Vasiliy Karasev is concerned about a lack of games prior to the EuroChallenge Final Four|
While Gaziantep will need to play some crucial games on the domestic front in the run-up to the EuroChallenge Final Four, Triumph Lyubertsy are facing a diametrically different challenge during the same period - maintaining their game rhythm.
The Russian EuroChallenge semi-finalists played their last VTB United League regular season game on 23 March and their play-off series against Spartak St. Petersburg does not start until May, four days after the Final Four in Bologna is done and dusted.
"We have a difficult situation as we are going through an entire month without an official game," Karasev told his club's official website.
"So we have decided to give the players a week off and then go on a training camp in Lithuania.
"There we will try to play a few friendlies in order to stay in game rhythm."
The Russian tactician was also asked whether he would have preferred Tartu University Rock rather than the Hungarian side as Triumph's opponents in the semi-final clash.
Szolnoki prevailed 2-1 over Tartu in their quarter-final series to reach the Final Four as the only team to qualify without the home-court advantage in the play-offs.
"Honestly, there is no particular difference," Karasev said.
"Both teams had shown good play throughout the competition and in the quarter-finals they kept us guessing up until the last game.
"Tartu began the series with a home win, but then lost twice in a row and in the third game, which took place in Estonia, they lost by almost 20 points.
"I am certain that the result of our semi-final will anyway primarily depend on ourselves, on our mood, on our preparation."