The Tasmania JackJumpers have produced a strong defensive effort to secure a 74-64 victory over Melbourne United and chalk up their third successive NBL win.
Returning to the scene of their greatest triumph in last season’s grand final qualifier, Tasmania repeated the dose at John Cain Arena on Sunday as they held United to the lowest score by any team so far this season.
After falling into a 0-3 hole to open the season, the JackJumpers have responded in the best way possible by backing up a home victory over Brisbane Bullets with road wins in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Tasmania held a 42-29 halftime lead as the home side’s offence crumbled under some intense pressure from the visitors, Melbourne trailing by as many as 16 points at one stage in the second quarter.
United came out firing to open the second half, reeling off 13 points in a row to level the scores, but Tasmania held their composure to restore their advantage with Fabian Krslovic and Rashard Kelly leading the way with 13 points apiece.
“We’ve been a work in progress and we’ve tried to every week just up some things here and there,” coach Scott Roth said after what he described as a classic JackJumpers win.
“It was grit and grind, defend the island, just get after them. And this is the way I love to play. And our guys, in the last 10 days have really responded to the incremental improvements that we needed.”
The visitors gained the ascendancy midway through the opening quarter, holding United to a single basket over the final four minutes to edge ahead 22-14.
Tasmania’s lead increased to 13 points by halftime, United’s woes reflected on the stats sheet with just 2-of-11 makes from three-point range and a massive 27-11 rebounding advantage to the JackJumpers.
Needing a spark to get back into the contest, the home side exploded out of the blocks in the third quarter as Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored seven straight points before Rayjon Tucker and Chris Goulding added triples to cap a 13-0 run.
But Tasmania answered back immediately with the next 10 points then clamped down on defence to hold United to 13 points in the fourth quarter.
United coach Dean Vickerman felt there could be a drop in energy from his side following an impressive win in Perth on Friday night but expected more fight in the face of Tasmania’s defensive pressure.
“This team is capable of moving the basketball out of pressure or any type of coverage, and when everybody gets involved then good things are gonna happen. If we get stuck with it and play one-on-one, we’re not good enough right now,” Vickerman said.