The Illawarra Hawks awoke from a heavy first-half slumber to torch the Zhejiang Golden Bulls 123-75, getting their Australian Basketball Challenge campaign off on the right foot.
They were lucky to come away from the game with all seven ABC competition points after frequent defensive lapses through the first half, but turned on the kind of style seen by last year’s side in a completely one-sided second half.
Marvelle Harris shone brightest for the Hawks with 22 points and some strong defence on former Oklahoma Sooner and Los Angeles Clipper Willie Warren, who is almost as tough a 1-on-1 task as there is anywhere in the NBL.
Harris was backed up by a solid 15-point, eight-assist game from AJ Ogilvy, 19 from Rotnei Clarke and 16 from Holyfield. Oscar Forman (16 points on 6/8 shooting) also took his opportunities on a tiring Zhejiang which backed up not 18 hours after their clash with the Bullets on Friday night.
The Golden Bulls rode Warren’s hand (26 points, six rebounds, four assists) through the hot and cold patches. When he was hot they were in the game, but once he fatigued late in the first half the visitors were easy meat in a 68-27 second-half.
While they should again be an offensive powerhouse, the Hawks were left with their hands in their pockets early as Warren scorched last year’s finalists with 15 first-quarter points.
He did it from inside and out, but soon enough Harris’ physical defence wore down the star American, who committed nine turnovers on the game.
Coach Rob Beveridge’s half-time message was clear as his side clicked up a few defensive gears and gave away no easy buckets.
Former NBL MVP Rotnei Clarke (3/9 3pt) was ice cold from downtown for the first 25 minutes until he found the stroke, making three of his last four from deep.
The Hawks sourced their offensive confidence from their defence, and all of a sudden they were holding a 30-point lead once Ogilvy put his head down and packed it in reverse on the baseline.
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Harris followed it up with a transition alley-oop to Holyfield a minute later, then soon enough Harris was himself tomahawking in transition.
The margin quickly hit 40 points on Nick Kay’s put-back and the Hawks continued adding to the highlight reel with more rim-rockers for Kay and Holyfield.
ILLAWARRA HAWKS 123 (Marvelle Harris 22, Rotnei Clarke 19, Michael Holyfield 16, Oscar Forman 16)
ZHEJIANG GOLDEN BULLS 75 (Willie Warren 28, Dayu Zhang 14, Bo Wen Lu 9)