A dominant 58-point second half by the Perth Wildcats has seen them prevail 94-78 over the Illawarra Hawks in a highly anticipated NBL matchup at WIN Entertainment Centre.
Clashing for the first time since their 2021 semi-final series, Perth (6-2) flipped the switch on a sluggish opening quarter in Wollongong behind big nights from superstars Victor Law and Bryce Cotton, and their ability to ascertain mismatches on offence.
Law was limited to just one field goal attempt in the opening 10 minutes before exploding for 15 points in the second quarter and narrowing their deficit to 41-36 at the half.
In his 150th career game, Cotton then took the offensive reins alongside Todd Blanchfield as the Wildcats outscored Illawarra 30-16 in the third period.
Illawarra (4-3) narrowed the scoreline to one possession in the fourth but when Xavier Nathan-Mayes was assessed for a technical foul, the Wildcats went on a quick 7-0 run and extended their lead to win by 16.
Two-time NBL MVP Cotton missed his first five shots before finishing with 24 points on 4 of 6 from three-point territory while Law had 22 points, seven boards and three blocks.
But it was the impact from Blanchfield off the bench that kept the scoreline ticking, scoring 20 points in just 22 minutes.
Wildcats head coach Scott Morrison said a tumultuous 48 hours surrounding Western Australia’s borders fuelled his side and their resilience was on full display Saturday evening.
“I always use basketball as an escape from anything that was bothering me. I kind of gave that advice to the guys,” Morrison said.
“I’m sure they didn’t need that advice but at the same time, I didn’t really want to sugarcoat anything. It’s a tough situation.
“It sucks that we left with the plan of coming back on a certain day and then all of a sudden we’re told that can’t that can’t happen. That’s really hard on you.
“So just another reason to be proud of the team tonight because the game is going to be played regardless of how we feel or what we get to do, so we may as well make them count and they were able to block that out tonight and put on a good performance.”
In the Wildcats jubilation came disappointment for the Hawks (4-3) after a dismal shooting night saw them lose their second straight at home.
Illawarra finished 5 of 27 from deep with Rathan-Mayes and Next Star Justinian Jessup scoring 17 points apiece while Tyler Harvey struggled shooting 5 of 18 from the field.