Winless in all three matches against Melbourne United this season, South East Melbourne Phoenix guard Ben Ayre remains optimistic for tonight’s encounter.

Last time they met, the ladder leaders gave their crosstown rivals a reality check with a 106-78 thrashing. That night, Phoenix shot only 35% from the floor and allowed 60 points in the paint.

This time around, Ayre said their preparation should provide them with confidence, despite losing their last five Throwdowns.

“They have a well-rounded team, well-rounded game,” he said.

“I think this week for us, it’s just been all about us and how we can execute our scout and just defend at a high level and compete.”

Phoenix’s looming challenge will be containing three-point specialist Chris Goulding, who leads the league with 4.3 made threes per game, whilst shooting 41.9%. Ayre also noted the likes of Jo Lual-Acuil Jr and Ian Clark as players to watch.

“There’s the obvious ones with CG (Chris Goulding) and how well he shoots the ball,” he said.

“Ian Clark shoots the ball so well and big Jo (Lual-Acuil Jr). He’s a menace on the block and he’s tough to deal with.”

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Since their stirring Christmas Day road win against the Tasmania JackJumpers, the Phoenix have hit a skid losing five of their last six, with injuries playing a considerable factor.

Although sitting at the bottom of the ladder, Ayre said the energy amongst the group is positive.

“Everyday, we try and approach it the same way,” he said.

“Obviously we’ve got a new look team at the moment, a lot of youth which has been good. We’ve had a lot of energy in our group and I think mathematically we can still make the play-in.

“But I think there’s been a lot of talk about us being proud of our efforts and gusty and all that. But to us that’s nothing. We come out, we expect to win.”

Phoenix have dealt an assortment of star and role players missing games because of injury, which includes big man Alan Williams who had season-ending surgery late last month.

However, Ayre sees positives despite the injury list, with Kody Stattmann, Owen Foxwell, and Luke Rosedale stepping up recently in crunch time.

“To be honest, I don’t think it’s been tough,” Ayre said.

“It’s actually been really cool to see some young guys just come out and hoop. I mean we play basketball for a job, so nothing’s been difficult. We just show up play basketball everyday and it’s been cool to see some guys who have had zero expectations at the start of the year come in and now they’ve got a role to play.

“I think guys have been good and other guys who have been bench players to start the year have come in starting roles and I think we’ve seen guys excel.”

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