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R11 Preview: Townsville v Perth

Who: Townsville Crocodiles v Perth Wildcats When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Saturday 19 December Where: Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Perth 85 (Beal 16, Knight 15, Prather 15) d Townsville 77 (Jett 13, Steindl 13), Round 5, Perth Arena THE MATCH-UP Jordair Jett v Jermaine Beal – Last time Beal played in Townsville he was sent home packing with four points and four turnovers, thanks largely to Jett’s shutdown, while the Crocs’ classy shooting guard finished with 24 points and five assists. THE STATS The Crocs haven’t won the season series against the Wildcats since 2005/06, but a win on Saturday will break that decade-long drought with a 3-1 series victory. Beal’s season average against the Crocs is 9.7ppg on 9-of-31 shooting from the field and 2-of-14 from range, while Jett has responded with 15.7ppg at 50 per cent. THE STORY Townsville coach Shawn Dennis knows the Perth Wildcats pretty well, but no Wildcat knows ‘SD’ better than Damian Martin. “SD and I go back to my Gloucester days,” Martin said. “He was someone I enjoyed watching at the Falcons, and he came to Gloucester to award a prize our school had won in a Newcastle Falcons-Hunter Valley competition. I’ve got an old Gloucester Times article he signed for me.” Dennis was assistant coach at the West Sydney Razorbacks, where Martin started his NBL career, then spent four years as 2IC at the Wildcats, so it’s no surprise Damo is enjoying the way Townsville are playing this year. “It’s been great seeing how well he’s coaching and how well his team’s playing,” he said. “But it’s no surprise they're blue collar, hard-working, disciplined, high IQ players because that’s what their coach is.” What hasn’t been as enjoyable for Martin is watching the Crocs beat Perth twice, and then run them close a third time at Perth Arena, coming back from double-figure deficits in each game. “They back themselves to stay in games, they may give up 10-point leads but that doesn’t deter them at all,” he said. “They look at the scoreboard and not one head drops, they just continue grinding away, playing hard in the style SD wants.” But it’s been more than just guts and determination, Dennis preparing his team well for what the ladder leaders do best. “Our formula’s pretty obvious, we like to knuckle down on defence, get the rebound, get out and run, and whether the other team’s in man-to-man or zone we want to be an inside-out team,” Martin said. Yet in their three match-ups this season, Townsville have kept the Wildcats to a moderate 67 per cent defensive rebounding percentage, forced as many turnovers as assists and restricted the Cats’ to just 13 three-point makes, well below their average of 8.6 per game against other opponents. Martin says the Crocs may be the youngest team in the NBL, but they don’t play like it, and the Wildcats will have to play with all their veteran discipline to get the win on Saturday. “They’ve spent a few years together now, quite a few have played together two or three seasons and it’s showing on court, they’re starting to back themselves, they're backing their style of play,” he said. “You can never take your foot off the pedal because you know they’ll come back and snag a victory.” THE WRAP The Crocs won the first two games of this series, but in Round 5 at Perth Arena the Wildcats pounded the ball inside and Townsville had few answers, their double-teaming schemes punished by seven Nate Jawai assists. Omar Samhan added that dimension to the Crocs’ play last weekend with six assists, but with Jawai, Matt Knight and Tom Jervis bringing more size to the fight than Adelaide’s frontcourt, Samhan may need to show he can score in the low block before drawing extra attention. Markel Starks’ penetration was proving a handful for Perth before his hamstring injury on Thursday, and Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson has a tough choice whether to use Martin’s prowess to cover the driving Jett or to disrupt Mitch Norton, whose leadership is crucial for the Crocs. At the other end the ‘Cats need Beal to shake his Townsville funk to take the pressure off his interior players, who Dennis’ men are sure to swarm.
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