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Cairns Taipans topple Melbourne United 95-78 in statement NBL win

Patrick Miller's 31 points helped Cairns to a 95-78 defeat of Melbourne United on Sunday.

Patrick Miller's 31 points helped Cairns to a 95-78 defeat of Melbourne United on Sunday. Photo: Getty

The two best performances for Cairns Taipans this NBL season have come against the ladder-leading Melbourne United following an impressive 95-78 New Year’s Eve home victory.

The Snakes put up 115 points in a 12-point win in Melbourne against United back on December 3 to snap a three-game losing run.

They came into Sunday’s match having lost their past two once again.

A sold-out Cairns Convention Centre greeted them for their annual New Year’s Eve fixture, and they responded with an outstanding performance from the start.

The Taipans assumed control in attack, through a combination of working under Melbourne’s defence and the visitors’ errant long-range shooting of 10-of-22 from behind the arc.

Little-used forward Josh Roberts lifted Cairns to a 26-19 lead by quarter-time before it was Sam Mennenga who took charge in the second term to inspire a 45-40 half-time advantage.

The Taipans’ lead was out to 10 midway through the third quarter, but Melbourne gained the momentum for the only time when a foul was overturned on a Dean Vickerman coach challenge.

United then scored 11 straight points, with Chris Goulding nailing three triples, to take the lead, but again the home team responded.

Mennenga hit his fourth three of the game to give Cairns the 66-63 three quarter-time lead before the home team dominated the final term.

The Taipans scored 14 consecutive points to go from four up to lead by 18, eventually winning by 17.

Cairns improved to 9-11 to remain in a play-in position while handing Melbourne their first road loss of the season.

While Mennenga starred for the Snakes with 22 points and 10 rebounds on 6-of-11 three-point shooting, he was far from their only standout.

Patrick Miller top scored with 31 points to go with five assists with Tahjere McCall adding 15 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Bul Kuol 12 points, five boards and four assists.

For a host of reasons, Taipans coach Adam Forde was delighted with the performance.

“We had everyone who stepped on the court playing well so that’s where I kept with the eight guys that played,” he said.

“Four of them are rookies and we just rode with that momentum. It helped that Melbourne didn’t zone either, which was also a benefit, and the guys were good.”

United, still first at 14-4, was best served by Jo Lual-Acuil with 15 points, and Chris Goulding and Ian Clark with 14 apiece.

Coach Vickerman was frustrated United couldn’t build any momentum for significant patches.

“I’m calling a time out in the first two minutes of the game and I didn’t think we came out with the right intent,” he said.

“We made some changes and in the second quarter we knuckled down and were better, then in the third we wanted some calls going to the rim.

“You’re on the road, we have to be better than that, and then after we got locked in again, we had another lapse at the start of the fourth where we let it get out.”

-AAP

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