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R19 Preview: Townsville v Cairns

Who: Townsville Crocodiles v Cairns Taipans When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 11 February Where: Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Cairns 75 (Gliddon 25, Craig 15, Tragardh 14) d Townsville 61 (Djeric 15, Samhan 12, Kay 10), Round 14, Cairns Convention Centre THE MATCH-UP Jordair Jett v Cam Gliddon – After the opening seven games Jett has been a standout for Townsville, providing 16.7 points, 3.7 boards and 3.4 assists per night and playing some outstanding on-ball defence. His away from the ball D is still a work in progress, something Illawarra exploited last week, and so can Gliddon with his high IQ and ESP-like connection with Mark Worthington. THE STATS Under Shawn Dennis, the Crocs have won nine games against powerhouses Perth and New Zealand, but just two against the Taipans. Cairns have scored just one road victory so far this season. The last team to finish a season on that total was the Taipans in 2009/10. THE STORY When asked what it is about the Reptile Rumble that brings out the best in both teams, Taipans coach Aaron Fearne didn’t have to think for long. “It’s from juniors up from a basketball perspective, my kids have just gone through it playing U12s, then U14s, U16s to 18s, 23s, ABA Marlins and Townsville Heat, you just grow up with that rivalry,” he said. “But then there’s the competition of the Cairns City Council against the Townsville City Council – our city is better than your city – that rivalry’s there, AFL, rugby league, netball it doesn’t matter. Businesses are the same, our business is better than your business.” Fearne said the rumbles turn sporting illiterates into basketball fans and basketball fans into hoops tragics. “There is a bus coming down to support us on Thursday which is a phenomenal effort,” he said. “They hop on a bus and drive four-and-a-half, five hours to watch the game then get straight back on the bus, go back home and then go to work, that’s the following and dedication both supporter bases have.” While the rivalry is cut throat, in the coaching ranks there is still the utmost respect, Fearne adamant Crocs boss Shawn Dennis has “done a phenomenal job”. “I think he’s definitely in contention for coach of the year. I know the record doesn’t say that but a lot of people at the start of the year said they weren’t going to win a game,” he said. Fearne has admired the young Crocs’ execution in the half-court, reading opposition defences and making them pay with clever counters, just as he likes his Taipans teams to. “He’s got them to move the ball, a lot of ball reversals and ball movement, you have to defend them for long periods of the shot clock and that puts any type of defence under pressure,” he said. “I think if you just let them run their stuff they're tough, if gives their players an opportunity to be opportunistic, and the ability to cut through their ball movement. “So I think you (have to) disrupt them and get after the on-balls certain ways and get after the post a certain way. We’ve had some pretty good disruption the way we’ve trapped the post since Christmas.” Matt Burston, Mark Worthington and Cam Gliddon have exemplified Cairns’ counter-orientated offence this season, and the entire team has joined in at times, but Fearne put out the challenge for one last consistent effort to finish the season. “It’s just having the understanding and acceptance to give (the ball) up now but I’ll get it back, manipulate the offence the way I want to by the way I cut, to be a threat,” he said. “We’re too inconsistent with that, sometimes we look great, sometimes we don’t look good.” THE WRAP The Crocodiles were cool, calm and collected for almost their entire battle with Illawarra, so expect similar patient ball movement on Thursday, opening up driving lanes and forcing the defence into rotations that allow Nick Kay, Omar Samhan and Mitch Young to go to work on the offensive glass. Cairns need to be ready for a little more aggression in transition at The Swamp, however, and their ball-screen defence must limit Jett and Mitch Norton’s penetration, which creates high-percentage shots that allow Townsville’s defence to get set. The Taipans were relentless in the last Reptile Rumble, their pressure holding the Crocs to 40 points in the opening three quarters, forcing them into one-on-one play instead of calculated ball reversals and forcing 15 turnovers to just nine assists. This veteran Cairns team has a lot of pride, and after seven road losses by 10 points or less they’ll be desperate to get that monkey off their back. But the Crocs have won five of their past eight at home, including victories over Perth, New Zealand and Adelaide, and will be hungry to dine on snake.
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