Round of 16 preview: Gaziantep v Ironi Nahariya
GAZIANTEP (FIBA Europe Cup) – It's going to be a steep climb for Gaziantep if they plan on giving Ironi Nahariya a run for their money in the second leg of the FIBA Europe Cup Round of 16 after a disastrous tie-opener in Israel left them with a 21-point deficit to make up.
Having been dominated inside the paint and forced out of their comfort zone with aggressive defense, Gaziantep surrendered to the Derwin Kitchen-led Ironi Nahariya 96-75, with the 30-year-old American guard posting his best game of the season for coach Eric Alfasi.
"In the first half of the game, the score was tight. We demonstrated a high level of defense in the second half and forced the visitors to take tough shots at the end of the shot clock. Players showed commitment, knowing they must step up in the absence of Gilbert Brown," said coach Alfasi after the game.
The Turkish side's problems extended beyond Kitchen, who collected 23 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists for Ironi Nahariya. Gaziantep were also outscored 56-16 inside the paint and lost the rebounding battle 42-31 against the Israeli club's frontcourt of Tyrone Nash, Yancy Gates and Jonathan Skjoldebrand.
Although Davon Jefferson did double-double for Gaziantep with 13 points and 11 rebounds, the big man did not look as dominant a force on the court as he was throughout the Second Round. Marcus Haislip and Jure Balazic also didn't look like their usual selves.
The one player who did have it going offensively for coach Stefanos Dedas was Andy Rautins, who went 5-of-7 from three-point range and 4-of-4 from the free-throw stripe for a team-high 19 points.
"We could have gone back, but we left points on the foul line," Dedas spoke in the post-game press conference, highlighting the 21-of-31 shooting performance from the free-throw stripe. "We will have to complete the task in our home court. That doesn't mean, it's the end."
While it may not be a complete dead end for Gaziantep, the opening they have to fit through in order to make up the 21-point deficit and qualify to the Quarter-Finals is, unarguably, miniscule.
Do Gaziantep have the blueprint to cause a second leg upset? They have been in a similar situation this season already, yet with much less on the line, against Elan Chalon in the final game of the Second Round, when they registered a home win to punch through their Round of 16 ticket after leading by as many as 32 points.