WOLLONGONG HAWKS coach Gordie McLeod says his side has learnt some valuable lessons from their 80-68 loss to the Wildcats before this Friday's re-match at WIN Entertainment Centre.
The Hawks will have to find a way to limit Perth's new import Michael Dunigan, who was devastating for Perth. He signalled his intent to dominate the paint this season, notching up 19 points, 8 from 11 from the field, four rebounds and a block.
The loss was the Hawks' 13th-straight in Perth as the Wildcats ran riot from the outset, accruing easy points from the paint while their defence disrupted Wollongong's offence, limiting them to seven points for the quarter.
''Their relentless pace from the start . . . and the way they disrupted us with their defence up the floor really hurt us,'' McLeod said of the clash at Perth Arena. ''We'll have to make some adjustments, we'll have to come up with a better game plan.''
The Hawks were heavily exposed in the paint, scoring 16 to their opponents 34, and were out-rebounded 43-25, in a first-half exhibition that lacked their usual energy as they struggled to find a way to deal with Perth's defence. ''They came out and hit us with everything but the kitchen sink and it took us a long time to find a way to get back in the game,'' McLeod said.
The Hawks mounted an admirable fightback in the second half as guard Rhys Martin and forward Oscar Forman started to land some buckets but the Hawks ran out of steam to lose by 12 points. The loss was particularly painful for forward Larry Davidson who took a knee to the back from Dunigan. The Hawks, who already have Tyson Demos and Tim Coenraad on the sidelines, will be sweating on his fitness.
''We have a couple of injuries now, but we'll have to deal with them. It's a physical league, you put a squad together and you have faith in the players that at any point that will have to lift their level . . . in order to fill the gaps in the squad,'' McLeod said. ''It's a short turnaround as we've got two more games this week. We are going to have to show a lot of mental strength this week.''