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NBL 2014/15 Round 2 Preview: Defending champs desperate to get on the winners list
Perth Wildcats v Wollongong Hawks
Friday 17th October, 2014- 5.30pm (local time)
Tickets: click here
Odds: Perth $1.22, Wollongong $4.30
It was the Championship homecoming for Perth when they hosted the New Zealand Breakers last weekend but the Wildcats barely gave a whimper in the first half, trailing by 23 at the main break. Despite reducing the margin to 9 in the final term, the damage had been done so to avoid dropping their first two home games of the season, you can expect Perth to come out strong this Friday night. The task against Wollongong has been made more difficult with the loss of co vice-captain Greg Hire, whose calf injury will keep him out of the line-up for six weeks. The 200cm forward was perfect from the field and the free throw line against the Breakers, collecting 7 points, 6 rebounds and a steal in a productive 22 minutes off the bench. His replacement, Mathiang Muo, will be eager to prove himself after already experiencing a number of injury setbacks himself.
A 33-16 final term got Wollongong over the line in their season debut against Townsville with Jahii Carson proving unstoppable down the stretch. In their Sydney match-up the following night, the lead never exceeded single figures but the Hawks finished on the wrong side of the ledger, falling by 3 points. While most sides will require a few more games to find their equilibrium, the Hawks already have a balanced starting line-up with Carson and Gary Ervin leading the scoring while Tim Coenraad and Luke Nevill averaged close to a double-double in Round 1. Coming off the bench, Adam Ballinger is a very handy sixth man, shooting 11-21 from the field for 13 points and 5.5 boards last round while Dave Gruber returns from illness for his first game this weekend.
Jermaine Beal #469319857 / gettyimages.com The 2014 Grand Final MVP, Beal had a forgettable Round 1 as his shooting woes contributed to Perth’s sluggish start. He finished 2-17 for 12 points with his only two makes coming from the three point line, resulting in a 0-9 effort from inside the arc. Beal can knock down shots from anywhere on the court but often looks to his mid-range game to find his stroke. The entire Wildcats roster will want to atone for their performance last weekend but in particular, Beal knows he can execute at a much higher level.
What To Watch For
A sell out audience saw 11,000 people fill the seats of the Perth Arena for the Wildcats’ debut match, close to doubling the next best crowd across the six matches. They were never able to fully make their presence known however, as Perth started the match 9-23 before eventually losing by 10 points. The home side will be desperate for a strong start to get the faithful involved and when arguably the most raucous and vocal fans in the league are up and about; it can turn into a very hostile environment for the road team.
It is almost unthinkable that Perth could lose both their opening home games but Wollongong need only watch the Round 1 game tape to organise a plan of attack. The Hawks front court has a height advantage, as they will against most sides with Nevill in the line-up, but must be wary of an early Wildcats onslaught which would set up the home side’s first victory of the season.
Perth by 6