Wildcats end United winning streak
Title favourites Melbourne United's unbeaten run has come to a surprise halt after Bryce Cotton inspired Perth Wildcats' 89-85 NBL Cup win at John Cain Arena on Saturday.
In a stunning turnaround, two-time defending champions Perth bounced back from a last round 25-point loss to be the first team to defeat United, snapping the star studded outfit's six-game winning streak.
Reigning NBL MVP Cotton defied an off night to step up as the match-winner, finishing with 29 points -- including 22 in the second half -- along with seven assists despite 6-of-20 shooting from the field.
United's Boomers star Jock Landale had made the bold pre-season prediction that Melbourne could go through 2021 without suffering a loss, and they certainly looked the part by cruising to a 6-0 start.
Even with Melbourne still without Boomers star Chris Goulding (calf) and Kiwi international Shea Ili (ankle), Perth looked unlikely to halt the United juggernaut after suffering three losses in their last four games.
The poor run was capped by a last round shocker against South East Melbourne Phoenix - their heaviest defeat in three years.
But Cotton combined with Jesse Wagstaff (14 points) and John Mooney (13 points, nine rebounds) to ensure United lost their NBL Cup opener.
Landale, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, put his hand up to face the music and attend the post-match press conference.
"I am happy to wear that on my chin," he said of his undefeated claim.
"Me saying that, I did genuinely believe that with the group that we have we could go undefeated.
"We lost tonight but our mentality is the same. Every game we want to win - if you don't have that mindset you are not a winner."
United's plight wasn't helped with Mitch McCarron limping off in the final minute with an "aggressive cramp".
Import Scotty Hopson (10 points from 5-of-16 shooting) had a chance to win the game for Melbourne but missed two three-point attempts at the death.
Perth coach Trevor Gleeson notched career win No. 250 but Perth's 3-3 start is their slowest in his eight seasons at the Wildcats helm.
"The grit we showed out there, we came out focused," Gleeson said.
The inaugural NBL Cup tipped off on Saturday, with all nine clubs set to feature in a total of 36 games over three weeks in the Melbourne hub.