Moller’s Huskies aiming to upset the unbeaten Saints

Craig Moller, Wellington Saints v Southern Huskies, Sal's NBL, New Zealand national basketball league. 19 April 2019. © Copyright Image: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz

In the New Zealand NBL, things move quickly.

Losing a few games on the fly early in the season doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no road to the finals…it just makes that road unsealed, void of helpful signs and directions, and significantly more difficult to navigate.

Craig Moller, the captain of the Southern Huskies who have won two and lost two to start the season, said just as much in his teams’ lead-up to another keenly anticipated fixture with the Wellington Saints this Sunday. 

“Two and two to begin the season is a fair reflection of where we are at,” explained Moller in speaking with The Pick and Roll.

“We’ve played some really good patches of basketball, but we’ve also played some really bad ones too.”

Their last start win over the Super-City Rangers in Hobart can be filed in the former of that category. Perhaps more pleasing than the win, was the defensive intensity the Huskies showed against a side that has the capability to catch fire when things are clicking. 

“Holding them [The Rangers] to only 68 points was a much-improved defensive effort from our end – and it was probably what we have been working on the most.

“It’s not easy with limited preparation to click on that end, and we’ve leaked nearly 100 points a couple of times, so that was a big performance from us.”

It gets no easier for the Huskies however, with the memory of an 87-60 round one loss to the Wellington side they face this Sunday fresh in the minds of a roster that’s still coming together as a cohesive unit.

“What we took out of the review we had from that first weekend was just how we’re going to work on our offensive structure [against Wellington].

“It’s really important we get the best shots possible, and make things a bit easier for one another on the floor – which we probably didn’t do as well as we would have liked last time out.”

A few key inclusions for the home side should make that task slightly easier against the Saints this time around, with Marcel Jones’ return that will see him come off the bench this week, the biggest return of the lot. His inclusion, plus the sparkling form of Moller, guard Tre Nichols and hybrid-forward Jalen Billups, mean that the Huskies now have a legitimate core that can threaten a Wellington side that many tip to win the entire competition.

“Wellington’s roster could honestly compete for an NBL Championship. They’re a very good side.

“Nick Kay is a phenomenal worker, and we’ve talked about him a lot in our preparation. You really can’t sleep on any of their starting five though.

“Shea [Illi] and Jordan [Ngatai] are both quality – and then of course there’s Reuben [Te Rangi] who was pretty quiet last time we met, so he’ll obviously be keen to have a night out.”

From a viewing perspective, the Huskies’ round one loss wasn’t so much down to a talent mismatch, but rather a lack of cohesion, and a few periods of defensive lapses in concentration. Combined, they allowed the home side to run away with the contest.

“We have talent all over the floor, and we can win games on the back of that. The key for us is our structure, and to make it harder for opposition coaches to scout one on one matchups.

“You can only stick with a team like Wellington relying on that talent for so long, though. If we’re not locked in on both ends, find a way to score some easy buckets and share the basketball, that’s what will make things hard for us.”

The Southern Huskies will be looking to inflict a first loss off the season upon the Wellington Saints at the Derwent Entertainment Centre this Saturday, with tipoff at 7:00pm AEST. You can watch the game live in Australia here via The Pick And Roll.

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