Melbourne United have snapped a four-match losing streak after grinding their way to a 75-65 victory over the Illawarra Hawks.
United entered Sunday’s contest at John Cain Arena looking to atone for a horror 28-point loss to the Sydney Kings that saw them concede top spot on the NBL ladder.
With Scott Hopson and Jack White still sidelined through injury, Melbourne relied on tenacious defence and efficient play from Jock Landale (19 points, eight rebounds) to maintain their place in the top-two with an 11-5 win-loss record.
Coach Dean Vickerman gave credit to his squad for the way they bounced back from their recent form slump despite ongoing scoring woes.
“It was about just getting back and making sure that (Sydney loss) was an outlier, come out and play the right way – we did that with our defence,” Vickerman said after the win.
“To hold anyone in this league to 65 points in the second game of a road trip is a great effort.”
United coughed up 18 turnovers and were outrebounded 20-12 at the offensive end but defensive pressure on Illawarra shooters Justinian Jessup (13) and Tyler Harvey (11) paid dividends as they restricted the Hawks to 31 per cent shooting for the game.
Melbourne scored just nine fourth-quarter points in a 77-69 loss to Illawarra in their last encounter and their offensive struggles looked set to continue after missing eight of their first nine shots to fall behind 14-4.
It took some pressing defence and trips to the free-throw line for United to close the first quarter level at 19-19 before their offence clicked in the second term with Landale as the focal point.
Landale took advantage of early foul trouble on Illawarra’s bigs to score 11 in the first half and set up a 39-35 halftime lead for Melbourne.
The Hawks lifted their intensity at the start of the second half and quickly regained the lead but United responded with an 11-2 run, Mason Peatling hitting from long range to put his team ahead by eight.
Emmett Naar chimed in with some handy baskets to cut Melbourne’s lead to 55-48 heading into the fourth quarter but Chris Goulding came to life in crunch time with 12 points, including three triples, to seal the morale-boosting win.
Coach Brian Goorjian expressed some frustration with the Hawks returning to Melbourne to face United again straight after the month-long NBL Cup, while the task only gets tougher with an away clash with league leaders Perth coming up on Friday.
“It’s really going to test us and tonight we couldn’t go to where we needed to go physically … to get the shots we needed to get against a team like this,” Goorjian said.