Sharpshooter Tyler Harvey has spearheaded a strong Illawarra team effort to earn Jacob Jackomas his first NBL win as their full-time head coach.
The Hawks enjoyed a 85-72 victory over the injury-hit South East Melbourne Phoenix after trailing early at Wollongong Entertainment Centre on Thursday night.
The home side took control of the game in the second half, charging to a 65-45 lead just before three-quarter time, but the Phoenix scored 10 unanswered points either side of the final break and got to within six with just over four minutes to go.
Illawarra sealed the deal with seven straight points, five of them from American Harvey.
The import scored a game-high 22 at 50 per cent from the field, hitting three of five attempts from outside the arc, and added five rebounds.
He got plenty of support from fellow import George King (16 points), Sam Froling (11 points, nine rebounds), Mangok Mathiang (10 points) and Deng Deng (eight boards, three blocks).
“We had to play with a little extra energy tonight to get this done on our home court, everybody chipped in,” Harvey told ESPN.
Harvey rebounded from a one from seven three-point shooting effort in Illawarra’s opening game home loss to Sydney.
“There’s never a hangover, I try to stay stoic, make or miss you’ve got to take the shots, you can’t get involved in stats,” he said.
South East Melbourne, who are also 1-1 after two games, competed well despite injuries depriving them of import Gary Browne (knee), Ryan Broekhoff (hamstring) and Trey Kell (rib), while Chinese big Zhou Qi has yet to arrive in Australia.
“I thought we did a good job but credit to them playing without three guys,” Jackomas, who had one win filling in as head coach for his predecessor Brian Goorjian last season, told ESPN.
The Phoenix got strong efforts from swingman Junior Madut (21 points, seven rebounds) and former NBA centre and import Alan Williams (13 points, 11 boards).
Mitch Creek contributed 12 points and Kyle Adnum 11, but between them made just nine of 31 field goal attempts.
Illawarra will discover on Friday the results of a scan to import Justin Robinson, who hyperextended a knee against the Kings, but he has already been ruled out of Saturday’s away game against Perth.
“Fingers crossed but it doesn’t look great at the moment,” Hawks general manger Mat Campbell told ESPN.