NBL 2014/15 Round 7 Preview: Hawks to complete the Sunshine Swing

Townsville Crocodiles vs. Wollongong Hawks

Sunday 23rd November, 2014- 7.30pm (local time)

Townsville RSL Stadium

Tickets: click here

Odds: Townsville $1.29, Wollongong $3.55

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Townsville trailed the entire match against Perth last round, eventually losing 78-93. Although they had seven more shot attempts, only two players reached double figures and that second straight loss places them at 3-5 for the year. A clash against last placed Wollongong gives them the perfect chance to get back on the winners list but there is work to be done defensively. The Crocs now own the second worst defence in the league, allowing oppositions to shoot 56% from the three point line across their past three games. With the Hawks having played the night before, Townsville’s nine days rest gives them a huge advantage and should see them exploiting the open floor as much as possible.

The Hawks are in desperation mode after dropping a tenth straight game last night to the Cairns Taipans. A close contest saw Wollongong grab the lead with two minutes remaining but they were out-scored 7-2 from that point on to lose 69-65. Gary Ervin had a shocker, recording 4 points, 5 assists and 5 turnovers. He has been rotated out of the starting line-up in past matches and although he did start on Saturday night, he played just 21 minutes. Wollongong’s only saving grace is that their one victory for the season came against Townsville, on opening night. They are a shadow of the team that competed in Round 1, when Ervin and Jahii Carson scored 20 apiece, Luke Nevill had a double-double and Brad Hill collected a season high 9 points off the bench. Perhaps memories of that win will spark the Hawks into an encore performance but every match-up looks a tough one at the moment.

Key Player

Jahii Carson

The Hawks point guard sits seventh in the league for scoring at 16.2 points per game but has the worst shooting percentage (41.4%) of anyone in the top ten. Last round against the Breakers, he had a woeful night offensively, connecting on just 1-13 for 2 points while balancing 4 assists with 4 turnovers. He was more productive against Cairns last night, hitting 7-13 for 17 points. His season started very promisingly as he turned in a match winning performance against the Crocs on opening night. Scoring 8 of his 20 in the fourth quarter, Carson led a 33-16 charge in the final term as Wollongong came from behind to win by 9. His determination to get to the basket proved unstoppable and this, rather than a reliance on jumpers, is the key to his game. In terms of rim protectors, Mickell Gladness is Carson’s only concern but if he can combine with Ervin and get back to their early season form, the Hawks back court will be too slick for one man.

What to Watch For

The Sunshine Swing

As stated by the NBLfacts twitter page (which can be found here https://twitter.com/nblfacts), just one side out of the last fifteen has been victorious when playing both games of the Sunshine Swing on consecutive days. Wollongong will be more buoyed by the fact that eight sides have split the weekend but that leaves six teams that have finished the trip winless. Having played a grinding, physical match against the Taipans last night, the odds are against the Hawks as they back up that performance 24 hours later. To use Townsville’s extended break against them, Wollongong must get on the front foot and attack early to fight the fatigue that may hit them later in the game.

Final Word

This is a battle of the two bottom teams but there is a lot to play for as Townsville only sit a game outside the top four while Wollongong need just one win to get back in the playoff race. It was a high scoring affair in Round 1 but that will not play to the Hawks strengths this time around as the likes of Todd Blanchfield, Clint Steindl and Brian Conklin will light them up from the field if given a chance. Conversely, Wollongong does not have enough depth in their three point shooting to exploit Townsville’s poor perimeter defence.

Luke Nevill had 7 offensive rebounds last night and Wollongong finished with 14 overall but they recorded just 4 second chance points. Combined with Larry Davidson and Oscar Forman, the Hawks front court has the advantage and will need to use it to full effect if they are to end their losing streak. However, as it stands, a nine day break should be enough rest for the Crocs to inflict more pain on the visitors.

Townsville by 10