Basketball: Big ask for Nuggets against experienced Cougars

Alf Arlidge
Alf Arlidge
The Otago Nuggets will have to counter the class and experience of the Christchurch Cougars with the only weapons they have - two skilful American imports and plenty of youthful enthusiasm.

But if they can keep their turnovers down and spread the scoring, coach Alf Arlidge believes an upset is on the cards.

The two sides have never met in a National Basketball League match but the Nuggets will go into their first home game, since taking a year out of the league, as underdogs. In fact, they will probably go into every game they play this year that way.

A quick glance at the statistics reveals the Cougars are vastly more experienced. But it is a reality to which the Nuggets are going to have to adjust, Arlidge said.

"They've definitely got more experience than us. But that is just what we are going to be up against every week," he said.

"But if we can play good defence, keep them to one shot...and halve our turnovers, from 21 to say 12, then, seriously, I think we are in with a sniff."

The Cougars are coming off an 85-72 loss to an impressive looking Wellington Saints side in Christchurch on Thursday night and will be without Australian import Tim Behrendorff, who is still with the Wollongong Hawks.

While the Cougars will miss the 2.11m centre, Arlidge believes the visitors still have plenty of strike-power.

"Tim is a great player but they beat Hawkes Bay last week without him," he said.

"They are a good side and have some good systems.

"The other import Trent Wurtz is a work horse. He can shoot the three, he's good inside and he's a good rebounder."

The most obvious threat, though, will come from a talented guard line which boasts the likes of Paora Winitana and Jeremy Kench.

"We've got to try and stop Paora Winitana, obviously. He's their main threat and in the guard line they've got Jeremy Kench and Aidan Daly who are very, very good."

Winitana has played more than 200 NBL games and Daly will play his 200th game against the Waikato Pistons in Te Awamutu next week.

Kench has also clocked up more than 120 games.

For the Nuggets, only veteran shooting guard Matt Gillan (29), with 94, has played more than 50 NBL games. The Nuggets will look to move the ball up the court quickly, cut down their mistakes, stop the Cougars' leading players and capitalise on the home court advantage. But the reality is they will need plenty of production from their two imports.

Antoine Tisby had a strong game in the 99-82 loss to the Harbour Heat in Auckland last week with 32 points and 19 rebounds, and Tyler Amaya had a reasonable debut with 25 points and seven rebounds.

The pair accounted for more than half the Nuggets' points and Arlidge said he needed more from the rest of the squad.

Nuggets skipper Sam To'omata had a quiet opening game. He was struggling with illness but Arlidge said he was excited about playing his former team-mates and had practised well this week.

Point guard James Ross has been promoted from the bench to the starting five after an impressive match against Harbour, and forward Tom Rowe will be looking to build on his promising beginning to the season.

Dunedin, tonight 8pm

Christchurch Cougars: Aidan Daly, Marty Davidson, Dan Peck, Paora Winitana, Adrian Taylor, Mark Morrison, Trent Wurtz, Lionel Hopgood, Sam Crozier, Jeremy Kench, Carew Elers, Rusty Thomson.

Otago Nuggets: Antoine Tisby, Tyler Amaya, Matt Gillan, Steve Robinson, Sam To'omata, James Ross, Hayden Miller, Riki Buckrell, Tom Rowe, Matt Trueman, Luke Aston, Mitch McCrae, Tim Coudret.


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