THEY'VE taken some major steps forward in recent weeks but Illawarra were put firmly back in their place by a red-hot Perth Wildcats in Wollongong on Friday.
The defending champs put on a shooting clinic in the first half, shooting 54 per cent from field, and a stunning 12 of the first 20 attempts from three-point range en route to a 99-77 victory.
As he typically does, Bryce Cotton led the way with 23 points, at 7-13 from deep, while Terrico White had 17 and Mitch Norton had his 14 points at a perfect 4-4 from the field.
Clint Steindl had 13 points and 3-5 from long range while Nick Kay had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds to notch an important win for the Cats, who came i having dropped three of their previous four games.
The Hawks were ice cold from the field in response in the first half, shooting at just 32 per cent from the field and at a dismal 1-11 from long-range.
Todd Blanchfield ultiamately continued his scoring form with 26 points and eight rebounds, while Sunday Dech again proved the other half of a one-two punch with 15 and five rebounds.
Daniel Grida was the only other Hawk in double digits with 11 point on a night in which the hosts never really looked in it.
It was a tough night but they'll need to bounce back quickly when they host South East Melbourne on the second leg of a home double on Sunday.
Free-throws to Majok Majok were the only points in the opening two and half minutes as both sides shot a combined 0-8 from the field to start the game.
Dech lifted things with an offensive board and and-one for a 7-4 break. He had another three-point play in response to Norton's first three but the former Hawk followed up with another triple for a 13-10 lead.
He seemingly couldn't miss, taking a four-point lead with another from deep and it moved out to eight on Cotton's first three.
Blanchfield kept his side in touch with six for the quarter but a breakdown at the defensive end saw Cotton grab his second from long-range as the lead swelled to 10 at quarter-time.
Jesse Wagstaff had consecutive threes to start the second stretching a 10-0 run that quickly became 13 on Cotton third triple. Naar had a lay-up but Steindl's three forced Flinn into a timeout with the run at 24- 5 and the margin at 20.
It did little with Steindl grabbing another out of the timeout and Cotton following up as it ballooned to 26. Dech continued to lead the resistance with a couple from the line and his first from the perimeter.
Blanchfield also chimed in with nine for the term but it remained an 18-point mountain at the half. Blanchfield had four on a 6-1 run start to the third, but Cotton steadied with a transition slam and follow up three.
White got going from deep, grabbing eight for the term, but the Hawks gave themselves the slightest sniff with an 11-2 run punctuated by a three from Blanchfield to cut the margin to 13 at the final break.
Back to back slams from Grida and Ogilvy forced Trevor Gleeson to call timeout just 50 seconds into the fourth term with the margin at 11.
It had a steadying effect, with Kay grabbing five points as the lead went back out to 19. A a three from Grida kept the Hawks in touch but they never went close to reeling it in.