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GAME REPORT

Jessup Fires Hawks to Fourth Consecutive Win

Justinian Jessup exploded in the first half to make sure the Illawarra Hawks didn’t miss Tyler Harvey too much and kept their hot form rolling to beat the Brisbane Bullets 87-70 in Wollongong on Thursday night.

The Hawks were back at the WIN Entertainment Centre on a three-game winning streak including a big win in Melbourne on Sunday, but without point guard Harvey this was a danger game against a nothing-to-lose Bullets.

However, Next Star Jessup ensured the Hawks further consolidated their spot in the top four as he delivered 12 points in the opening quarter, 20 for the first half and an NBL career high 29 for the game on the back of shooting 11/17 from the floor and 5/10 from beyond the arc.

The win is a fourth consecutive victory for the Hawks and all of a sudden if other results go their way and they beat United again on Saturday in Melbourne, they could finish Round 18 on top of the NBL standings.

The Hawks' shooting dried up a little in the second half but still they outrebounded the Bullets by three and limited them to shoot at 34 per cent from the field and to 4/25 at 16 per cent from downtown.

As well as Jessup's big night, Antonius Cleveland had another 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals for Illawarra, Xavier Rathan-Mayes 14 points, six boards and five assists, and Sam Froling 10 points, five rebounds and three blocks.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian was back at the helm after missing Sunday's win in Melbourne through COVID and was delighted with the performance.

"It was an important win and a lot of change with Tyler being such an integral part of what we do. Then coming off that big, emotional win in Melbourne and it's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride over the past month," Goorjian said. 

"We identified this as a dangerous game and our performance wasn’t perfect, but there were concerns coming in here tonight. Our match ups with them are difficult and they don't play with a true post player so we were concerned coming in, but bottom line is I'm really pleased with the win with five games to go."

Next Star Tom Digbeu was a shining light for Brisbane with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals with Robert Franks finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, Tamuri Wigness 11 points, and Lamar Patterson 10 points, four assists, three steals and three boards.

Bullets coach James Duncan lamented yet another slow start from his team.

"Slow starts are something we obviously haven't been able to find the answer to the reason behind that, but kudos to our bench for coming in and giving us a huge boost and bringing back the lead to six or eight," Duncan said.

"But then obviously those guys get a little bit tired and it was a little bit back and forth, and we weren’t able to get over that hump at least two times throughout the course of the game."

After both teams traded baskets early on, it was the Hawks that blew the game wide open and it all started with Next Star Justinian Jessup. He hit two three-pointers and 10 points as part of a stunning 14-0 run which put Illawarra on top 18-6.

Lamar Patterson eventually settled Brisbane with a basket but the Hawks didn’t slow down and three-point bombs from Isaac White heading to quarter-time saw them lead 29-15 on the back of 12 points from Jessup and shooting 11/17 from the floor opposed to 6/19 from Brisbane.

The Bullets started the second quarter with seven of the first nine points including a triple from Isaiah Moss, but six point from Antonius Cleveland and a corner three from Tim Coenraad kept Illawarra on top by double digits.

It was Tom Digbeu the spark for Brisbane in his best quarter of basketball in the NBL with nine of his 12 points for the half, but still the Hawks had the answers and Jessup drilled two more threes to give him points on the half including 4/5 from downtown.

Illawarra led 53-39 at the break and that was soon 58-39 to start the third quarter after two Cleveland free-throws and a triple from Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

It took only a minute for James Duncan to call a timeout but he got the response he was after and the Bullets soon went on a run of eight straight points capped up with a three ball from Robert Franks.

Illawarra, though, was still in control leading by 12 at three quarter-time and really the home team was in cruise control through the fourth term going on to win by 17.

Both teams back up again on the weekend in Round 18 of the NBL with the Hawks back to Melbourne to play United again on Saturday. The Bullets head back to Brisbane to host the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 18

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 87 (Jessup 29, Cleveland 14, Rathan-Mayes)

BRISBANE BULLETS 70 (Digbeu 13, Franks 13, Wigness 11) 

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