The Illawarra Hawks have chalked up their first win in the NBL Cup after easing past a disappointing New Zealand Breakers to record a 102-88 victory.
The Hawks dominated the first match of Monday’s double-header at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena thanks to a strong defensive effort and hot shooting from long distance, Brian Goorjian’s squad finishing with 16 three-pointers on the night.
Tyler Harvey (22 points) and Justinian Jessup (20) each made four triples while Cam Bairstow went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc on his way to 17 points.
The Hawks held a 54-40 lead at halftime then answered every New Zealand challenge to ensure there would be no repeat of their second-half collapse against Cairns in their NBL Cup opener on Saturday.
“The big thing I like about this group is through adversity – we’ve had a lot of styles of losses … disappointments – but individually and as a team these guys just keep bringing it the next day and keep trying to move forward during these challenging times,” Goorjian said.
New Zealand were hoping to use their maiden NBL Cup appearance as a turning point for their season, having lost four of their opening five contests to sit two wins adrift at the bottom of the ladder.
But the Breakers unravelled through a litany of handling errors in the second quarter, resulting in a 33-19 surge from Illawarra and a 14-point halftime edge.
“The second quarter hurt us a lot,” Breakers coach Dan Shamir said after his squad gave up 12 turnovers directly leading to 18 points for the Hawks in that period.
“We came in with the right mentality and attitude but we broke very easily in that second quarter … another tough day.”
The Breakers closed the margin to nine points nearing the end of the third stanza but fortune favoured the Hawks when a Jessup triple counted despite appearing to be released after the shot-clock expired.
Bairstow and Harvey quickly added further three-pointers as the lead blew out to 81-64.
Corey Webster led the Breakers with 22 points and Tai Webster added 20, while American import Colton Iverson pulled down the most rebounds (17) of any player this season.
New Zealand suffered a blow in the third quarter when Lamar Patterson limped off with a knee injury, leaving the two-time All-NBL First Teamer in a race to be fit for Thursday’s clash with the Sydney Kings.