Zhou Qi’s night of foul trouble did no favours for the South East Melbourne Phoenix, who gave up huge scoring runs in a game to forget at John Cain Arena.
The big man finished with just 12 minutes on court, with his presence on defence sorely missed.
It all started when he was called for an unsportsmanlike foul against Luke Travers in the second, taking to the bench until the final minutes of the third term.
The Phoenix would give up 33 points in that term alone, with Travers and Michael Frazier II running riot. It only got worse from there, as the Wildcats went on to score 53 second half points.
South East Melbourne gave up 100 points or more for the second time since returning to the court after a lengthy COVID break, the first time against the Bullets. Zhou did play in that game, spending 17 minutes on court for just five rebounds, two points and two blocks.
He then found himself in foul trouble towards the end of the third, having picked up four personals.
It was a bit of a blast from the past for South East Melbourne, after one of the major weaknesses that cost it in NBL21 was a weak defence.
With Brandon Ashley also picking up four personals, the Phoenix suddenly lost the size advantage they may have previously held.
“Our second term was obviously where the game was separated. We kind of lost our way,” stand in coach Judd Flavell said.
“They also picked up loose balls and offensive rebounds that got them cheapies.
“I didn’t really get a good look at the unsportsmanlike. It’s one that I’ll look back on… we were on the wrong end of some of those calls in the second quarter.
“Some of it… was from our lack of execution. When they had all the momentum, they hurt.
“Perth, they had Majok out there for a lot of it, but they put him off the court. He started, but he was out of the game pretty quick.
“Size wise relative to what they had out on the floor at all, that was something we talked about, that we may have had an advantage in size, but foul trouble hurt us… getting those guys off the floor.”Embed from Getty Images
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The Phoenix came into the game with multiple players forced to miss through COVID health and safety protocols, including coach Simon Mitchell.
Captain Kyle Adnam, Dane Pineau, Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi were all unavailable for selection, with Zhou and Izayah Le’Afa returning to the squad. Tristan Forsyth and Lachlan Barker came in as COVID replacement players.
Le’Afa faced a big job without Adnam, added to the starting guard rotation alongside Xavier Munford with a match up against Bryce Cotton beckoning. Munford still finished the game with 18 points, above his average for NBL22.
“I just go out there and play the game, I want to stay aggressive and my team believes in me, so I want to be aggressive from the start,” Munford said.
“We have a deep team, we have that mentality, we’ve had since day one.”
Barker was one who stepped up in the guard group, after receiving just three minutes of game time across two games so far in NBL22.
The Frankston product was influential nearly every time he found space to shoot, finishing with 11 points at 50 per cent shooting and a rebound.
Playing with a bit of swagger and bringing energy every time he checked into the game, Barker (and his mo) did his best ‘Adnam impersonation’, according to the press conference gaggle.
“He’s one of those guys that X [Munford] is talking about, having full confidence,” Flavell said.
“Losing [Adnam], losing Cam, losing Reuben meant that he was going to get plenty of time tonight. He’s showed it every day in practice, he’s a guy that can play at this level, and we got to see that tonight.
“He’s only going to get better and better… he’s a good player, and he’s going to get more opportunities.”
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