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The Otago Nuggets tasted their first defeat since emerging from a six-year hiatus. Taranaki stacked on 68 points in the second half to turn a seven-point deficit into a comprehensive 107-81 win in Auckland last night.
The Mountain Airs were relentless on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 64-33.
Shane Temara (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Marcel Jones (15 points, 18 rebounds) had the edge under the hoop, while Derone Raukawa top-scored with 23 points in another fine performance from the young point guard.
Jordan Ngatai led the scoring for the Nuggets with 22 points and veteran Tall Blacks point guard Jarrod Kenny chipped in with 18 points. Jordan Hunt (16 points, seven rebounds) had a strong first half but faded.
Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere told the Sky Sport commentary team the second half was like "running into a bus".
"They just starting making those shots. I mean, we were trying to keep them to one side of the floor but once Derone gets into the middle area, he is really tough to guard.
"It puts that indecision in the mind of the defender and he really exploits that. Once they [got going] they were just too hard to stop."
It was the Nuggets’ third game back since making a return to the league this season. The side has only really been together for 10 days, so the loss is not catastrophic.
But the Nuggets do not have long to repair morale as they play the Franklin Bulls tonight.
The match actually started well. Kenny dropped in a trio of three-pointers to help his side open up a 16-7 lead midway through the quarter.
But it took the best part of four minutes before the Nuggets could add to their score in the second period. Ngatai finally hit a tough fade-away jumper from the top of the key and drilled a three-pointer moments later.
Raukawa responded with a lovely drive to the hoop for a basket and collected the foul on the way. His match-up with Kenny was an interesting side plot in the main narrative.
Ngatai started the third quarter with a lucky assist to Kenny. The pass deflected off a defender’s boot before reaching its target.
But it was Taranaki which made a run. Its offensive rebounds were mounting and Temara was proving rather valuable under the glass. He pushed in a rebound to put Taranaki back in front.
Jones was having a big impact on the boards as well. He also hit a damaging three-pointer as Taranaki outscored the Nuggets 37-19 to take an 11-point lead into the final 10 minutes.
Taranaki went into the last period with a healthy buffer which just kept growing. It cracked 100 points with more than four minutes remaining.
What was a tight game had become a total blowout.
In last night’s other game, the Manawatu Jets beat the Canterbury Rams 108-93.