Mooney helps Wildcats to top spot
In-form Perth Wildcats have overcome a cold-shooting Bryce Cotton with a convincing 83-69 victory over Illawarra Hawks to power to the top of the NBL ladder.
The irresistible Cotton, who is the hot favourite to win his second straight MVP, tallied just 18 points on 6-of-21 from the field but the two-time defending champions were relentless on defence to continue the Hawks' misery at RAC Arena on Friday night.
Cotton eventually broke the shackles with 17 second-half points as the Wildcats wore down the Hawks in a dominant second half.
Todd Blanchfield (18 points) picked up the scoring slack, while John Mooney (17 points and 15 rebounds) continued his strong form.
Sam Froling (15 points) tried hard for the Hawks, while Tyler Harvey (14 points) faded after a hot start.
The Wildcats (17-5) equalled the record of Melbourne United and have won 11 of their last 12 games, while the Hawks (12-12) are clinging to a top four spot.
"We are building our defence and we feel that if we can defend well then we can beat teams. We are very confident right now," Mooney said post match.
The Wildcats put the clamps on the Hawks, who started well and silenced the boisterous crowd of 11,485 - the biggest NBL attendance this season - through a hot Harvey.
The free-flowing contest hit a wall in a dour second-quarter battle, with Cotton uncharacteristically being unable to put his stamp on the contest. The grinding tempo suited the visitors but the Hawks only led by one point at half time.
After missing his first six field goals, Cotton finally broke his drought with a layup early in the third stanza and added another moments later which threatened to break the game open. The rattled Hawks then went cold from the field and the Wildcats capitalised with a 10-0 run to lead 60-52 at the last break.
Five quick points to Cotton midway through the final quarter snuffed out Illawarra's challenge and extended their woes in Perth, with the Hawks having won just once there in their last 35 attempts.
The Wildcats' three-game home stand continues when they play New Zealand Breakers on Sunday, while the Hawks face another tough road test against Melbourne United.