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Melbourne tips off pre-season vs UCLA

Melbourne United’s stars were court-side but their role players did the job in an impressive first up win over UCLA on Saturday night.

The Bruins have come to Australia with big wraps and several future NBA talents but an understrength Melbourne team led by Dave Barlow, Majok Majok and Todd Blanchfield made sure their club opened their campaign with an 89-84 win in front of a near capacity crowd of 2900 at the State Basketball Centre.

Barlow and Majok both top-scored for Melbourne with 16 points a piece while Blanchfield offered 14 points and four steals and Kyle Adnam nine points and 10 assists.

Boomers Olympian Chris Goulding was kept out of the game as was David Andersen plus imports Cedric Jackson and Ramone Moore.

Exciting big man Devin Williams had his first run in Melbourne’s navy blue preseason jersey but was kept to 12 minutes in which he scored 10 points.

Bruins stars Isaac Hamilton or Bryce Alford both scored 18 points while potential NBA draft prospect Lonzo Ball had eight points and 13 rebounds but struggled to make shots.

Barlow said the happy to make his return after missing last season with injury.

“I felt a bit anxious to start with and I didn’t shoot well unfortunately but I was happy to be out there again,” Barlow said.

“It was good to get the win without some key players and we have a lot to work on, we’ve only been together for a week or two.

“You will see a lot more cohesion when you see our team closer to the season.”

Melbourne had a dream start as Blanchfield and Owen Odigie connected on early three-pointers in a 10-4 run.

Towards the end of the quarter the Bruins clicked and a late three-pointer from Ball saw them ahead 20-19 at quarter time.

Hamilton, whose brother Jordan plays in the NBA with Denver, put on a show in the second term driving to the basket at will and making a running shot on the buzzer to see the Bruins up 40-37 with Hamilton’s personal tally on 16 points.

Majok was impressive in the third term establishing position inside and throwing down a powerful alley-oop dunk from a Adnam pass with the point guard troubling the Bruins’ with his speed and daring distribution. 

While Alford was hot shooting four three-pointers in the third, United’s offence continued to tick over as coach Dean Demopoulos rotated his lineup as they took a 68-60 lead into the final quarter.

Bruins guard Aaron Holiday lit up the crowd with a breakaway dunk in the last term as they caught up to the home side.

But Barlow and Majok made it comfortable before Tomlinson’s three and Adnam’s layup made sure of the win.

The Bruins take on Brisbane Bullets in Brisbane’s return game on Monday night.

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