Todd Blanchfield caught fire and Chris Goulding followed his lead as Melbourne United ignited their season at Hisense Arena on Sunday.
Blanchfield nailed eight three-pointers in his 27 points sparking a game-winning third term in Melbourne’s 95-83 win over Illawarra Hawks.
After his dominant third quarter, Goulding made sure of the win with a bumper final term as he finished with 19 points as Melbourne shot 16/23 from the three-point line and 51 per cent from the field.
The Hawks were excellent in the first half and trailed by just a point at the main break, but their shooting touch escaped them in the second half with Marvelle Harris their leading scorer on 19 points with centre Michael Holyfield adding 14 points.
Melbourne’s season record is now 2-2 and the Hawks drop to 1-3.
Blanchfield said his side’s starters were determined to led from the front.
“That’s exactly what Chris [Goulding] said when the starters huddled up before the game,” Blanchfield said after the game.
“He said those first two games [losses] were on us, we were sloppy and the bench came in and gave us some energy but it’s on us starters to set that tone and have the bench continue that process.
“We weren’t happy as a group with that and it’s something we addressed and were able to do much better and it went a long way.”
Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said his side couldn’t match Melbourne’s shooting and failed to understand their scouting plan.
“They shoot 70 per cent [from downtown], we shoot 24 per cent. That’s the game right there,” Beveridge said.
“The game plan was we would not leave shooters open. If Cedric [Jackson] could score 20 or 30 points through his penetration or off backing down in the low post then that’s what we were giving up.
“It’s pretty disappointing they were able to do that but some of those shots Todd made were incredible as well. That was just high quality.”
The Hawks opened on a 6-0 run but Goulding’s audacious step-back three and nifty layup lifted Melbourne back into the game.
Goulding’s good work opened room for Blanchfield to work and his quick fire seven points put the home side ahead.
But the Hawks’ bench supplied big minutes to close out the quarter with Cody Ellis’ free throws and Holyfield’s put-back dunk making it 25-20 to the Hawks at quarter time.
Rhys Martin’s shooting and more heady play from the visitors gave them a 33-25 lead early in the second term but Cedric Jackson’s aggressive driving and more Blanchfield shooting put Melbourne back into the lead.
Goulding took Jackson’s lead and attacked the hoop in the final minutes seeing his side out to a four-point lead before Harris set up Oscar Forman for a three on the half-time buzzer to leave it 46-45 to Melbourne.
Blanchfield was on fire in the third term, splashing four three-pointers in his 14-point tally for the quarter with the Hawks unable to find an answer as they trailed 75-63 with 10 minutes to play.
Goulding must have caught ‘Blanchfield fever’ to start the last term as he scored eight points early while Blanchfield’s eighth three-pointer saw the home club’s lead approach 20 points.
Jackson wasn’t letting Harris or the Hawks get back into the game and he denied the import guard’s dunk attempt with five minutes to play, spiking the ball from Harris’ hand as he attempted a one-handed dunk on the fast break.
Harris made sure the Hawks finished strongly but Jackson’s corner three-pointer capped a statement win.
MELBOURNE UNITED 95 (Blanchfield 27, Goulding 19, Jackson 14)
ILLAWARRA HAWKS 83 (Harris 19, Holyfield 14, Ogilvy 10, Clarke 10)