Andersen Fires Hawks over United
The league’s oldest player turned the tables on the team he helped to last season’s championship as David Andersen showed there’s plenty of life in the old dog with a vintage performance in Illawarra’s hard-fought 87-81 victory over Melbourne United.
The Hawks opened Round 5 on Thursday night at WIN Entertainment Centre with Andersen, a four-time Olympian who also played several successful title-winning years in Europe and in the NBA for the Houston Rockets, scored a team-high 18 points in his most effective game of the season.
Brian Conklin provided him with strong frontcourt support finishing with 15 points, while Tim Coenraad was a huge spark with 14.
Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge was proud of his team’s performance in his 100th game at the helm.
“I’m super proud of the guys. There’s been a bit of hate from our own fans which is pretty disappointing,” Beveridge said.
“We had to prove to ourselves that we can compete with any team in the league and we showed that tonight.
“Dave turned back the clock and was absolutely outstanding. His talk, his leadership – what a fabulous performance from a bloke who’s 38. He didn’t look 38 tonight.
“We have a huge game against Perth on Sunday and we’re looking forward to it.”
Casper Ware and Mitch McCarron led Melbourne with 18 each, while Josh Boone had 17.
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman was disappointed with his team not quite being at their best.
“They came out with a lot of energy and intent and we didn’t match it with them the whole first half,” Vickerman said.
“We turned it around and we still had some decent looks to win the game but they deserved that one. We were a little off, a little down. I got a tech foul so we all made some mistakes tonight.”
Ware was hounded for most of the night by Hawks skipper Kevin White, who set an aggressive tone for his team after getting the nod to start to try to put a halt to Illawarra’s worrying slow starting trend.
Chris Goulding’s absence didn’t hurt the visitors in the opening five minutes and they enjoyed an early lead, primarily through the hot hand of DJ Kennedy.
But they had no answers for Coenraad at the other end, who lit up with nine first-period points to keep the Hawks close.
Conklin had six points in seven minutes, while AJ Ogilvy hit a three and Andersen drilled a mid-range jumper, as Illawarra closed with a 14-5 run to lead 25-20 at quarter-time.
The Hawks shot a sizzling 62 per cent from the field in the first period compared to a none-too-shabby 53 per cent for Melbourne.
Andersen added a quick five points early in the second quarter and energetic rookie Daniel Grida’s impact was undeniable, helping Illawarra to an 11-point lead with five minutes left in the half.
But just when the Hawks were on course to take a double-digit lead into the second half, the defending champions responded with a surge of their own to trail by four.
Illawarra regained the momentum to be ahead 51-42 at half-time despite by a walk off Ware triple, aided by a technical foul called on Vickerman.
Coenraad and Conklin had 12 points apiece at half-time and Andersen chipped in a valuable nine to give the Hawks a significant 18-3 edge off the bench.
Ware and White engaged in a crowd-pleasing battle in the moments before half-time, with Ware turning to eyeball the Illawarra bench after splashing the long buzzer-beating three.
Ware had nine points at the main break, while Kennedy led with 11 and Mitch McCarron had 10.
Vickerman had to go with reliable back-up forward Craig Moller when Kennedy was whistled for his fourth foul two minutes into the second half.
The margin swelled to 15, with Andersen turning back the clock with a vintage shooting display.
Vickerman rolled the dice, junking up his defence with four bench players and McCarron, as Melbourne trimmed the lead to eight.
Illawarra returned fire and took a 72-59 lead into the final period, but that rapidly evaporated with Melbourne’s 12 unanswered points.
The Hawks broke the drought with a bucket and held their nerve down the stretch to claim a much-needed win.
Both teams play again on Sunday – the Hawks at home to Perth and Melbourne hosting Cairns.
Vickerman expects Goulding to play on Sunday.
NBL ROUND 5
ILLAWARRA HAWKS 87 (Andersen 18, Conklin 15, Coenraad 14)
MELBOURNE UNITED 81 (McCarron 18, Ware 18, Boone 17)