36ers land first win
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Gun import Jerome Randle has led the Adelaide 36ers to a nail-biting first win of the NBL season, defeating Melbourne United 87-79 in Melbourne.
Randle nabbed 30 points and gathered five assists in an enthralling duel with United playmaker Cedric Jackson.
The 36ers led by 15 points at the final break and looked to have the game wrapped up but Melbourne fought back and with less than two minutes remaining on the clock, forward Todd Blanchfield drained a clutch three-pointer to bring the lead back to four points.
But United couldn't capitalise and the calm hand of captain Mitch Creek guided the 36ers to an eight-point win.
There was little separating the two sides in a fast-paced opening half, with Randle and big-man Matt Hodgson working the pick-and-roll to good effect.
With United's 206cm starting forward Majok Majok benched after picking up early fouls, 36ers big men Daniel Johnson and Hodgson gained the advantage on the boards.
Johnson had 17 points to go with his seven rebounds, while centre Eric Jacobsen chipped in 11 points.
But it was Randle who proved the difference, the 175cm point guard scoring 18 of his 30 points in an outstanding first half.
The NBL's leading scorer last season, Randle's explosive speed and supreme ball-handling ability allowed him to drive to the basket time and again.
Randle went bucket for bucket with Jackson in the final term but was benched in the closing minutes after picking up his fifth foul.
Jackson drained 15 points and gathered seven assists for Melbourne, while star shooting guard Chris Goulding managed just 10 points on 3-15 shooting.
The loss leaves Melbourne 0-2 after the first round of the season ahead of a rematch against the 36ers in Adelaide on Friday.
Coach Dean Demopoulos said his side's poor shooting performance - converting 37 per cent of their shots compared to Adelaide's 48 per cent - had prevented them from gaining the ascendancy.
"It's hard to play defence when you're missing that many shots," he said.
"Can we do better there? I think so, for sure. Overall, the approach was the way we've trained. I want my guys taking those shots when they're open and if they don't take them, they're coming out."
Adelaide coach Joey Wright said the 36ers had drastically improved their defensive effort after being smashed by Illawarra in their opening game.
"We got down and defended. They took a tough shot every single shot," he said.
"Our group challenged everyone to be a better defender, whereas before it was just an individual thing. That's what it's going to take with this young group."