Melbourne United survives gritty Gaels in preseason US college tour
Melbourne United opened their preseason tour against US college teams, with a game against Saint Mary's College from California. Many Australian basketball fans will associate well with the Gaels, who have had local exports Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavadova and recent graduate Jock Landale as proud alumni, and with at least one Australian playing for the Gaels since 2001.
Tonight saw United's first official appearance since winning the 2017/18 NBL championship. The incomplete roster meant a tough game against a Gaels lineup who are on the back of a record 30-win season. There was an air of excitement for United fans especially, who have been waiting to see new signings Daniel Trist and Mitch McCarron in the black and white.
Early in the game, Dave Barlow showed up in a big way. He came out in the first quarter leading all scorers with 9 points, thanks to some pinpoint shooting from the outside.
Mitch McCarron had been vocal this off-season about wanting play as a point guard, and tonight was a good opportunity for him to work on his craft. Offensively, he looked comfortable the ball in his hands. His vision and ability to put the ball on the floor opened up the court, and he was able to distribute to Barlow and Goulding, who were waiting on the outside for open shots.
But tonight, guard Jordan Ford from the Gaels was arguably the best player on the court. His ability to get inside the paint was a big reason for Saint Mary's ability to take it right up to the defending champions.
Credit: Rachel Gill
After an early run the Gaels took the lead. They exposed United in the paint and racked up multiple offensive rebounds, whilst their defence clogged the paint. It made United take rushed shots from the outside. Frustration began to boil over, with the Gaels not backing down from United's physical style of play. Goulding and Trist combined in the back half of the second quarter to finish off strongly and cut the lead down to 4 at the half.
With the game in the balance, there was a lack of cohesion being displayed by the United team. But an electric start to the second half saw a 16-5 run, led by David Barlow. What quickly became apparent was their lack of depth. When Goulding, Trist, Barlow and McCarron played together, they looked like they could easily pull away from the Gaels. But without an import in sight and Craig Moller sitting out, the team was obviously short-handed.
Entering the last quarter United had found themselves a small break, leading 60-56 at 3 quarter time. The Gaels had seemingly held United from running away with the game. They countered United's strongest lineup for the first 4 minutes of the quarter and with Jordan Ford continuing his hot shooting streak, the Gaels threatened to cause a stir by taking a small lead into the final minutes of the game.
After both teams traded baskets for most of the last quarter, United found themselves down by 2 with 9.9 seconds on the clock. As United sat in their last timeout, the questions were thrown around to who would stand up to take the game back off Saint Mary'. Chris Goulding had struggled from deep all night and McCarron couldn't find his stroke from anywhere on the court.
McCarron took the ball from the top of the key and drew the defenders to the paint, he kicked the ball out to the corner where CG43 was waiting with open arms to drain the long ball with 4.5 seconds on the clock.
Goulding drained his trademark step back 3, taking United to a 81-80 lead, leaving only seconds on the clock for the Gaels to make one last play. Ford was able to find an open shot but unfortunately for the gallant Gaels, they came up short.
Credit: Rachel Gill
David Barlow was the standout from last night's game, finishing with 23 points, whilst Daniel Trist showed glimpses of his ability to replace Tai Wesley, putting up 19 points of his own. He played as an undersized centre and coming up opposition which stood well over 7 foot tall.
Melbourne now move on to their next match up, they come up against Loyola Marymount University (LMU) next week.
Melbourne United v Loyola Marymount University
Thursday 16th August, 7pm tip off
Casey Basketball Stadium
Credit to Rachel Gill for all images. For more images from the game check out the Melbourne United Pre Season v Saint Mary's album on Facebook.