The Wollongong Hawks have been knocked from top spot in the NBL after last night's 76-66 road loss to the Cairns Taipans.
Despite accounting for the Taipans by 10 and 14 points in two previous meetings, the Hawks didn't show their usual confidence and cohesion, slipping to their second loss of the season.
Wollongong's leading scorer, Adris Deleon, endured a tough night.
He racked up five turnovers and made just 2/13 shots to finish with six points - 11 below his season average. Centre Larry Davidson was similarly ineffectual, grabbing just two rebounds and missing all five of his shots.
Wollongong were woeful under the boards, losing the rebound battle 42-24. Free throw shooting (12/23) was also an issue for the visitors.
Cairns were under pressure heading into the match after four straight home losses.
But they were too hungry and determined for the Hawks, who now sit in second spot with a 7-2 record.
Wollongong led after the first quarter before falling behind by seven at half-time.
They were on a roll and down by three midway through the third period before the Taipans took control with a decisive charge to be up by 18 with a quarter to play.
Glen Saville was Wollongong's standout with 15 points on 6/7 shooting, while guard Rhys Martin had 15, to go with seven assists.
Lance Hurdle finished with 12 points and Oscar Forman added 11.
Jamar Wilson led Cairns with 12 and three players each had nine.
The Hawks have little time to regroup and shift their focus to this Friday's away game against Perth.
Last night's game was expected to be tight all the way and it followed the script for most of the first half.
After missing his first shot, Forman made a lay-up, put-back and free throw in the opening minutes to pace his team's early scoring.
When he hit a three halfway through the first quarter he had already doubled his average scoring output on the road.
The teams basically traded baskets before Dave Gruber muscled in for a lay-up to give the Hawks an 18-17 lead.
Up by five in the closing seconds, Wollongong dropped their guard, allowing the Taipans to grab their fifth offensive rebound on a tip-in to trim the lead to 22-19 after one quarter.
It was a classic arm wrestle - there were six ties and five lead changes by the midway point of the second quarter - as both teams worked hard to assert their authority.
The Hawks were nursing a one-point lead but the Taipans responded with an 8-1 run to forge ahead 37-30.
Deleon was struggling, missing eight of his first nine shots, while the visitors were being out-worked by their opponents under the boards.
Cairns were ahead by as many as 10 and were in a good position with a 42-35 half-time lead.
The home team made 54 per cent of their field goal attempts compared to Wollongong's 37 per cent. They also out-rebounded the Hawks 19-13.
Forman and Hurdle both had eight points at the main break, Saville was up to seven, while Martin had six points and five assists.
Cameron Gliddon led the Taipans with nine points and guard Aaron Grabau had eight.
The Hawks mounted a brief fightback, drawing to within three with five minutes to play in the third quarter.
But the Taipans blew the game out with a devastating 17-2 run to close the period.