Heartbreak Hawks can recover from slump


Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod believes the Hawks can break out of their slump by getting back to relying on brains over brawn.

The Hawks tasted defeat for the sixth time in their past seven games with Saturday night's heartbreaking 78-76 home loss to two-time defending champions New Zealand.

Guard Lance Hurdle had a chance to win the game or force overtime but lost his footing in the final seconds and was unable to launch a shot before the full-time siren sounded.

After starting the season with seven wins from eight games, Wollongong's record now stands at 8-6 heading into this Friday's home clash with the last-placed Cairns Taipans (4-10).

Though McLeod couldn't fault his players' efforts, he thought their concentration and attention to detail wavered at times.

"The thing we keep trying to work on during the week is being smarter," he said.

"We can't compete with teams with size and physicality. We've got to beat teams between the ears. If we can get smarter, that's going to help us get over the line.

"[The Breakers] made big plays and we broke down. You can't leave [Breakers guard] CJ [Bruton] open in that [late-game] situation. That's just either fatigue or not being switched on with what's going on.

"They're the things we need to look at and improve on if we're going to get over the line."

The Hawks led 20-16 after the first quarter and were down 43-42 at half-time.

New Zealand stretched the margin to six after three periods before Wollongong surged back into the contest.

But guard Rhys Martin's career-high 28 points weren't enough for the home team.

Once again, Wollongong's inability to win the battle under the boards cost them dearly, as the Breakers grabbed 39 rebounds to their opponents' 22.

The Hawks have now been out-rebounded 283-188 in their past seven games.

"They're a back-to-back championship team, so we're not that far off the pace," McLeod said.

"We kept finding ways to get ourselves back in the game, and as a coaching staff, that's all you can ask.

"The two games we had before this went to overtime, so we just need every guy to bring that little bit more and play a bit smarter and we can turn it around.

"We wanted to try and get the Breakers on the perimeter as much as we could, but we struggled to handle the dribble penetration and we just didn't do a good enough job on the boards. We gave up 12 offensive rebounds and we just have to be switched on better.

"A lot of that's coming from helping [defensively], because guys are over-helping on penetration. The shot goes up and [the opposing centre is] getting a run at the bucket. That's where [Breakers centre Will] Hudson makes a living.

"You can't fault the effort and the intensity was great, but to get over the line we just have to be more consistent in those areas."

Despite the run of losses, the Hawks still have a buffer on the teams outside the top four.

"Sure it's really frustrating that you're so close and you can't get over the line, but the pleasing thing is that we're still being competitive," McLeod said.

"We just need everyone being that little bit better."


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