Studs and Duds: Round 15

At the conclusion of each round, NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria lets us know who made the grade and who deserves a little shade.



Perth Wildcats

What else is there to say about the Wildcats? I mean, honestly, they are just a wonderful example of sustained sporting excellence.

Closing out a stretch of fourteen consecutive road games, this incredible ball club just ran the table on a Round 15 triple-header.

Led by some spectacular play by their superstars, the ‘Cats knocked off the ladder-leaders, took care of Brisbane and then outlasted the Breakers in what was undoubtedly the game of the season so far.

According to the Statman (@nblfacts), it was the first time in NBL history a team has won three road games in three different states within a five-day span. Very impressive stuff.

It also results in the Wildcats completing their regular season road schedule with a very healthy 9-5 record, equalling their franchised record for a 28-game season.

Of course, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but they’re just an absolute class act.


Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)

Down by one with time winding down… and the ball in the MVP’s hands… we all knew exactly what was about to happen.

“I was just reading and reacting, trying to find an open spot on the floor” Cotton explained postgame.

“I was anticipating a double but it didn’t happen… so once that happened and I saw a pathway my eyes lit up. I just wanted to take my time and follow through.”

Just quietly, you know why he saw that ‘pathway’? It was created thanks to the quick-thinking of veteran teammate Jesse Wagstaff. Watch that clip again and check out the savvy back-screen the six-time champ laid on Cotton’s defender as soon as he gained possession. From that moment on, the Breakers were scrambling; Abercrombie was pointing, Dan Shamir was screaming, and Cotton had the space to find his spot on the floor.

While we’re at it, shout-out to Vic Law for the beautifully subtle rub-screen he put on Yanni Wetzell in that moment. That’s just high IQ basketball from guys who know how to win.

Now, back to Bryce. Is he this season’s Most Valuable Player? I think he’s currently leading that race. Is he the league’s greatest import of all-time? That’s a fascinating conversation. Tune into NBL Overtime this evening for my take on that.

One thing that cannot be debated is that Cotton is one of the most clutch performers you’re ever going to see. And I’m talking about in any sporting context, anywhere in the world. He just has a remarkable ability to deliver in big moments. And he does it… as I warm up my best Cyndi Lauper voice… time after time. If there is such a thing as a clutch gene, Cotton’s double helix is loaded with it.

You know who else is big time?


Vic Law (Perth Wildcats)

The Long Arm of the Law was phenomenal across Round 15 as he paired with Cotton to drive his team to a trio of wins.

Here are the numbers… against Melbourne, the former NBA forward put up 20 points and cleaned the glass to secure a career-high 18 rebounds. In his return to Brisbane, he became the first Perth player this season to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists as he piled on 24, 8 and 4. And then last night he set a new mark for the highest individual score of the season by posting 39 points AT AN ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS 74 PERCENT FROM THE FIELD!

I mean, are you kidding me? The man averaged 27.7 points and 11.3 boards across Perth’s three wins this week. He should be in The League.


Hugo Besson (New Zealand Breakers)

Hey, while we’re on dude’s operating at an NBA level, let’s sing the praises of this talented French prospect.

Besson was terrific in Adelaide on Saturday, when he led the Breakers with 17 points, but what he did in the third quarter last night was on a whole other level.

When Chasson Randle fouled out midway through that period, Besson checked in and immediately caught fire. It was beautiful to watch as the Frenchman got to that special place where he just felt completely unstoppable. And you know what? He was. With his elite scoring instincts well and truly on display, the 20-year-old poured in 17 points across an electric five-minutes that had everyone watching from home – and at least one commentator – losing their minds!

Big ups, also, to Yanni Wetzell and Peyton Siva who were both tremendous for the Breakers this week. With those guys playing well, this week’s rematch between Perth and New Zealand – bitter rivals across the modern NBL – should be another great clash.


Tasmania JackJumpers

Among all the wonderful things that have happened across NBL22 so far, no team or individual has been more impressive than the JackJumpers.

It really has been remarkable what Scott Roth and his squad have achieved. This team just continues to play a tough, gritty, selfless style of basketball that makes them very hard to beat.

It’s a style that has won them all kinds of respect in their inaugural season and won them another couple of games across Round 15.

In the Tropics, it was Josh Adams who led the way with a 20-point performance, while Clint Steindl and Jack McVeigh combined for 49 against Illawarra, as the Jackies secured an emotional win.

You’ve just got to love the way these guys go about their business. They defend at a high level, they share the ball and they’re focused on doing all the little things you need to do in order to win. Things like talking on D, blocking out, cutting hard and setting good screens. None of those things show up on a box score but Roth has his squad getting them done every single possession. And the beauty of it? These are the real difference-makers. Especially when you’re blessed with less overall talent than the other more established clubs, these kinds of things help you to compete. And when you consistently get those ‘little’ things done at a high level, the group grows in confidence and people start knocking down shots.

You know what? I’ll stop… I could go on forever singing the praises of Roth and his team. They’ve been amazing.


Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)

It’s wild to think that, when all was said and done, this week’s epic Throwdown wasn’t even the game of the round.

Nonetheless, credit where it’s due: the fifteenth clash between Melbourne’s cross-town rivals was absolutely enthralling. Especially when CG43 caught fire in the fourth.

Kept to just 3 points across the opening three quarters, Goulding erupted for 13 in the final term as United turned a 12-point deficit into a memorable 8-point win.

Of course, it was a scoring outburst that surprised absolutely nobody. After all, we’ve seen this movie before from the Melbourne skipper. Chris Goulding hitting massive shots at John Cain Arena is basically like the Shawshank Redemption at this point – you’ve seen it, it’s awesome and you’re ready to view it again and again when it pops up on your screen.

For the Phoenix, the shot in the clip below – the dagger from the top of the Chemist Warehouse – was like the warden finding Andy Dufresne’s tunnel behind the poster. In that moment, they knew they had lost.

Jaylen Adams (Sydney Kings)

The Kings extended their win-steak to seven this week as they took care of business up in Far North Queensland.

Naturally, it was their star PG who led the way as he picked Cairns apart out of pick-and-rolls. Adams is an absolute gun – a genuine MVP contender – and, in this one, he literally cruised his way to 24 and 7 and a regulation win.

“It’s what I expect from hm, at this point,” Kings coach Chase Buford said.

“To me that’s about an average game from him. That’s what he does and what he should do.”



Adelaide 36ers

Man… things are not going well for Adelaide.

The 36ers went down to the Breakers this week, making it five losses in a row for this under-performing squad.

It was another rough shooting night for the Sixers this week as they shot just 13.6 percent from long range, connecting on just 3-of-22 from beyond the arc. That’s back-to-back games at under 20 percent as their poor execution and lack of creative playmaking is resulting in very few open looks.

Thankfully, there is one bright spark for Adelaide fans: the play of Kai Sotto. The talented prospect scored a team high 14 points against New Zealand and grabbed 7 rebounds as he continues to showcase his developing game.

Mitch McCarron (Adelaide 36ers)

On the flip side, Adelaide’s prized free agent recruit is in a bit of slump.

Hitting a low-point in what has been a difficult season, McCarron put up just 2 points on Saturday night, shooting 0-of-6 from the field and missing all 4 of his attempts from long range.

Of course, it’s never just about scoring when it comes to McCarron. This is a guy who contributes in a wide variety of ways. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to heave his usual impact against the Breakers as he added just 3 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals across his 33 minutes on the floor.

“Not good enough,” the championship-winning point guard reflected about his team’s performance.

“Not good enough from myself and not good enough in executing and getting good shots… I’m not pointing the finger; I need to be better myself.”


Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)

Speaking of point guards, the man running the show up in FNQ also had a rough time this week, as his side dropped another couple of games.

Machado was terrific in Sydney last week but crashed back to earth in Cairns, posting back-to-back 7-point games. The highly skilled point guard just couldn’t get going against either Tassie or the Kings, shooting a combined 4-of-21 from the field, including 0-for-9 from long range.

“We’re going to continue to support [Scott] and give him everything he needs to bring his mojo back,” Taipans coach Adam Forde said.

“We’ve got an outstanding medical team, a great high-performance team and he’s got outstanding teammates. He’ll get there. I’m confident that he’ll get there.”


The views on this page are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBL, its Clubs or partners.


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