The undermanned Illawarra Hawks were out-hustled and out-bustled in a disappointing 91-73 defeat to Melbourne United on Monday night.
United led at every break as they capitalised on a lacklustre rebounding performance from the Hawks, which saw them slump to 5-7 on the season.
Melbourne dominated the glass, winning the rebound count 51-28 on the night.
The Hawks missed the production of AJ Ogilvy and Demitrius Conger, who both didn’t feature.
Hawks big-man Ogilvy (groin) failed a fitness test in the lead up while Conger (suspension) was also absent.
All five United starters had double digits, with Casey Prather (18 points, eight rebounds, five assists) leading the way.
Fellow American import Josh Boone (15 points, 14 rebounds) dominated inside.
Sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke (24 points) kept Illawarra in the hunt in the first half while underrated forward Cody Ellis scored 14 points off the bench.
United snuck out to an early lead on the back of a Goulding three, but Clarke's polished offence kept Illawarra in the hunt.
Ellis got his first minutes since Illawarra's round two loss and immediately had an impact with an assist midway through the quarter.
A pair of late trebles from Kyle Adnam, who spent a season as a Hawks’ development player, paved the way for United to lead 22-20 at the first break.
Clarke and Chris Goulding traded shots from range to start the second period as both sides struggled to steal the ascendancy.
Ellis hit a reverse lay up to put Illawarra 33-32 in front.
Ware drained one from the car park in the lead up to the main break to drag United to a four point lead at the main change.
A floater from Clarke levelled the scores at 48-all and seemingly had Illawarra back in the hunt.
But Illawarra’s rebounding woes came to a head.
United outscored the Hawks 22-8 in the third period as they continued to out-hustle their rivals. Goulding cashed in on Illawarra’s lacklustre effort for boards, as the United sharpshooter bombed away from downtown to kick his side clear.
Back-to-back trips to the foul line for Ware extended that advantage to 18 points deep in the third.
It proved a decisive margin. Ellis continued to show his worth in the fourth for the Hawks, but the hosts would easily prevail by 19-points.
Boomers rep Nick Kay (11 points, five rebounds and four assists) played well in the defeat.
Illawarra face-off against Perth Wildcats at WIN Entertainment Centre on Sunday.
This story originally appeared in the Illawarra Mercury