The Canterbury Rams continue to firm as a likely contender at this year's Sal's NBL Final 4 after grinding out an 81-70 win in Hobart over the Southern Huskies.
Facing off for the first of three games against each other in a little over a week, the Rams started strongly with a 21-10 opening quarter and never looked back, relying on their trademark defence to yet again make shooting difficult for their opposition.
Despite constantly working themselves back from a double-digit deficit, the Huskies just couldn't land shots (34.9%) against Canterbury's hard-nosed defence and in the end the visitors proved to have too much time and patience to ensure the win.
Emmett Naar turned in one of his best games of the season, finishing with 16pts, 9rbs and 6ast in a game MVP performance, while Cam Gliddon (18pts) and Isaiah Wilkins (18pts, 10rbs) both provided strong support.
For the Huskies, who at one stage trailed by as much as 18pts, no matter how much they tried it just wasn't to be their night, Jalen Billups (17pts, 13rbs) delivered another big game, Marcel Jones added 15pts and Tre Nichols scored 13pts. For all three players, their return was below their season averages, again highlighting the defensive job applied to them.
The victory marked Canterbury's sixth in a row and almost certainly has them with one foot in the Final 4, where as the Huskies need to find more wins as they seemingly now find themselves in a battle with the Southland Sharks for the fourth and final spot available for July's big event.
The two teams clash again on Saturday night, this time in Launceston where the Huskies must find a way to bounce back.
(Photo credit: PhotosportNZ)
# Note - the official final score is Southern Huskies (70) - Canterbury Rams (81). The initial Live Stats score is incorrect.
Southern Huskies 70 lost to Canterbury Rams 81
Huskies - Jalen Billups 17pts & 13rb, Marcel Jones 15pts, Tre Nichols 13pts.
Rams - Isaiah Wilkins 18pst & 10rbs, Cam Gliddon 18pts, Emmett Naah 16pts, 9rbs & 6ast.
Stats That Matter - the Rams defence was at its best yet again and consistently put the Huskies under pressure when shooting, leaving the home team with a lowly 34.9% shooting clip.