Melbourne responds to call for defence with big win over Perth
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Melbourne responds to call for defence with big win over Perth

DJ Kennedy of Melbourne, right, under pressure from Damian Martin of Perth.

DJ Kennedy of Melbourne, right, under pressure from Damian Martin of Perth.Credit:AAP

A mid-week leaders meeting set the platform for Melbourne United's statement win over the Perth Wildcats on Monday night.

After two losses to Brisbane Bullets last round, Melbourne’s leaders got together and their message for each other and the team was a simple one.

They have to rely on their defence and put their words into action.

To win back-to-back NBL titles, Melbourne aim to have the best defence in the league and they showed that is a real possibility after keeping the ladder-leader Wildcats to just six points, equal second lowest quarter in team history, in the third term, as they setup an 82-65 win.

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Perth shot just 37 per cent for the night and only four of 21 from the three-point line while NBL scoring leader Bryce Cotton was restricted to 11 points on four of 15 shooting.

That third term will have NBL coaches watching with interest, both for what Melbourne did well and where Perth were slowed down.

Casper Ware of Melbourne, right, battles Damian Martin of Perth.

Casper Ware of Melbourne, right, battles Damian Martin of Perth.Credit:AAP

But Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said his side needed to regain their defensive edge.

"That's who we want to be," Vickerman said.

"We might not be the best [statistical] defensive team in the league this season but in the second half of the season we want to be the best defensive team and we made a strong statement tonight."

Melbourne captain Chris Goulding led his side with 19 points while Casper Ware added 16 points and David Barlow 15 points.

Goulding said it was the words of veteran forward Barlow that helped reset the team this past week although having a full week of training also made a difference to their defence.

"That was Barlow's strong message - we have to be able to rely on our defence," Goulding said.

"So if we splutter offensively, our defence keeps us in it and there was a stretch like that tonight where we, as Dean said, were getting empty possessions and weren’t converting offensively but we were getting stops.

"It kept us floating where as when we have empty possessions and then not playing defence and that's where you see leads disappear or you go down five to 10 points.

"Barlow doesn't talk a whole lot but when he talks he knows what he is talking about and the guys tend to listen."

Perth forward Nick Kay led his side with 15 points and 12 rebounds while Mitch Norton added 12 points.

Perth coach Trevor Gleeson called the loss the worst of his club's season but he backed his players to bounce back after also losing to the Sydney Kings.

"We have played 15 games now and that was the worst game we have played for the season," Gleeson said.

The Wildcats have used only two of their three import slots choosing to sign an extra Australian player instead.

"If we had played really good basketball and got beaten then that's what we would look at but we know we didn’t play well," Gleeson said.

"That's something we have to fix ourselves, we are a much better team than that and if you take out that third quarter then it's a pretty close ball game. That's something we will look at."

Melbourne United play Sydney Kings in Sydney this Sunday at 2.50pm AEDT.

Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.

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