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United claim fourth NBL win in a row

Defending NBL champions Melbourne United have extended their winning streak to four matches after shutting down the Tasmania JackJumpers in the fourth quarter to secure a 76-72 victory.

United restricted the JackJumpers to seven points in the final period of Saturday’s clash at MyState Bank Arena to further enhance their reputation as one of the league’s best defensive outfits.

Tasmania appeared poised to cause a boilover with inspired play from import Josh Adams (23 points) handing his side a 65-63 lead after three quarters but United clamped down on defence to stop the first-year franchise in their tracks.

The result gifted United’s Tasmanian-born captain Chris Goulding a happy homecoming for his first national league appearance in his home state.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” Goulding said about playing in Tasmania for the first time in his 357-game career.

“I definitely pencilled in the first time we were coming down here … and to come away with a win was cool. It was looking a little dicey there at times.”

With JackJumpers centre Wil Magnay (COVID protocols) unavailable, Melbourne’s big-man duo Jo Lual-Acuil (19 points, seven rebounds) and Ariel Hukporti (11 points, six rebounds) dominated under the basket to help reel in the hosts’ double-digit lead in the second quarter.

“They both had solid games, if we shifted the basketball the way we wanted to shift it, we probably could have got them a few easy looks as well, a couple of extra ones,” United coach Dean Vickerman said about the impact of his two centres.

The result also marked the 150th national league win for Vickerman – the three-time championship winner with New Zealand and Melbourne – becoming the fifth-fastest coach to reach that milestone.

Aggressive team defence and strong finishing at the basket from Adams saw the JackJumpers build a 10-point lead in the second quarter but Lual-Acuil and Hukporti racked up points in the paint as United edged ahead 44-43 by halftime.

The home side kept pace with United in a tight third quarter as Josh Magette started to find his range while Jack McVeigh’s late triple helped Tasmania take a 65-63 lead into the final term.

But Tasmania’s offence dried up in the final period as they fell short of claiming their third win of the season.

“Obviously some self-inflicted wounds there with our group but they played extremely hard,” coach Scott Roth said after the JackJumpers dropped to a 2-5 record.

“I was very proud of them across the board – you’re playing a championship team there with a lot of pedigree of winning.”

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