Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod believes the Hawks' first loss of the season will reveal more about their toughness than any of their first five victories.
The Hawks (5-1) suffered their maiden defeat with Friday's 65-51 bashing from the Sydney Kings, slipping to second spot after titleholders New Zealand climbed into first place with back-to-back road wins over Townsville and Cairns.
After building an early 16-8 lead against the Kings, Wollongong allowed themselves to be bullied out of their offence over the final three quarters.
They made just 31 per cent of their shot attempts, while their 51 points is believed to be the lowest single-game total in club history.
The Hawks know they played poorly and plan on bouncing back to their best in Saturday night's home meeting with Cairns.
"It's when things are going tough that you really look at the character of a team," McLeod said.
"This is about licking the wounds and stopping the bleeding, and then it's about getting back on the horse and finding a way to go out and play next week.
"It's about learning and re-evaluating, and making some changes to come up with a better plan.
"On any night any team is going to knock over another. Next week we're probably going to get a lot of what we saw [on Friday], so hopefully this game is good preparation for next week's game."
The Hawks didn't get carried away with their hot start and McLeod said it was equally important to keep an even keel after tasting their first loss.
"You don't want to get on the rollercoaster. You have to stay focused on the processes," the 2009-10 NBL Coach of the Year said.
"We just stay with the philosophy of just facing the hurdle that's in front of you and doing what you can to jump over it or get around it. That's not going to change no matter what happens."
Guard Rhys Martin was the only Hawks player to make at least 50 per cent of his shots against Sydney, hitting 6/8 to finish with a team-high 15 points.
Frontcourt duo Larry Davidson and Oscar Forman each made just 1/6 field goals, while guards Adris Deleon (2-13) and Lance Hurdle (3/10) also had bad nights.
"We knew coming in we were going to be in for a tough contest," McLeod said.
"They did a good job of disrupting us and taking us out of the stuff we wanted to run, and we struggled with the way they played.
"There's no excuses. We were just totally out-played."