Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson believes a lack of match practice and build up of quarantine came back to haunt them today after losing to Melbourne United 75-71.
The Wildcats had their chances to win after breaking clear to a nine-point lead during the third quarter.
But Melbourne surged back to level the scores at three quarter time and then seized upon a Bryce Cotton ball handling error in the last 20 seconds to remain undefeated.
The Wildcats were playing just their third game of the season and entered the match having spent 21 of the last 31 days in quarantine across Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.
Gleeson increased his rotations in an attempt to keep the squad energised but they shot at 27 per cent from the field in the second half.
“We didn’t hit the court until Thursday from last Friday’s game,” Gleeson explained.
“When you’re not on court to get touch – I didn’t think we shot the ball particularly well and that’s touch. That’s just having the ball in your hand. We tried to navigate through as best we can.
“We got a little bit fatigued. It’s probably a lack of playing. You can’t just get rhythm. I thought it was a much better performance than last week. I thought it was a really good step in the right direction.
“We can get into some rhythm now. The hardest part was we didn’t know where we were training or playing or what city we were in. Now we’re here in Melbourne so can get into a regular routine.”
Cotton produced another stellar performance with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but United’s Yudai Baba turned the game by restricting him to only two points during the third quarter and making some crucial shots at the other end.
His effort was vital given Melbourne lost captain Chris Goulding to calf injury during the third quarter and Shea Ili is sidelined with an ankle injury.
Jock Landale top scored for Melbourne with 16 points while Baba (14) and Mitch McCarron (13) were also important.
Gleeson said the Wildcats needed more scoring support for Cotton. John Mooney (15) and Mitch Norton (11) provided the other main contributions.
“We’ve got to get the other guys who aren’t used to playing with him to know to be aggressive and get to the scoreboard and not just rely on Bryce too much,” Gleeson said.
“It’s really up to the rest of the team to raise the bar. Certainly Bryce raises the bar for us. We need to get some more scoring power from our wing guys – Clint, Blanchfield and Jesse.
“We certainly need to get those guys some quality shots.”