By Chris Pike, Pagemasters
The Townsville Crocodiles' run towards the NBL playoffs hit a huge bump at Perth Arena on Friday night with the Wildcats sending them packing, 80-52.
Townsville had won eight of its last 10 games after starting 0-10 to be hot on the heels of fourth-placed Sydney, but had no answer to Perth's relentless defensive pressure and attack on the offensive boards.
The Wildcats have now won 14 of 16 games against Townsville since the John Rillie, Corey Williams-inspired quarter-final victory at Challenge Stadium back in 2009, and the Crocs have never won in Perth since in eight attempts.
Matt Knight, Jesse Wagstaff and Jeremiah Trueman all scored 14 points for the Wildcats with Knight dominant with 13 rebounds as well, while Rhys Carter had six points, eight boards and four assists.
Luke Nevill was the only Croc to score in double-figures with 11. Jacob Holmes had eight points and 10 rebounds, Peter Crawford eight points and Gary Ervin seven.
The Wildcats' defence was stifling, though, forcing the Crocs into 28 turnovers and out-rebounding Townsville 46-30.
Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge continues to hail his team's defensive efforts with the offence still a work in progress.
"This is the best defensive group I've ever coached in my life," Beveridge said.
"They've bought into it, they play hard and we forced 28 turnovers. The defence is just flat-out choking teams and that's why we are winning."
Townsville started the game off strongly with scores tied at 12 late in the first quarter, but from there the Wildcats went on a stunning 23-1 run highlighted by a massive block from Carter on Crocs centre Ben Allen, which he followed up with a three-pointer down the other end to complete the play of the night.
Things then heated up a little with Ervin called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Wagstaff when he retaliated to some niggle from the Wildcat forward, but really it made little difference as the Wildcats led 43-24 at half-time.
The Crocs played better in the third quarter and benefited from a technical foul called on Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge, but still the Cats lead increased to 25 by three-quarter-time and 28 by the final whistle.
Crocs coach Paul Woolpert simply felt that his team 'stunk' and he was lost for answers as to why having won eight of 10 games coming in.
"Our mental preparation individually and collectively wasn’t what it needs to be to compete in a professional basketball game," Woolpert said.
"That's unacceptable. I know that we have been playing well and I thought that our preparation was good. I thought the guys were focused and tuned in, but we came out and didn’t come close to matching the physicality of the Wildcats."
Both teams have short turnarounds with Perth heading to Melbourne to face the third-placed Tigers and the Crocs heading to Wollongong to play the Hawks on Sunday.
Perth Wildcats 80 (Trueman 14, Wagstaff 14, Knight 14)
Townsville Crocodiles 52 (Nevill 11, Holmes 8, Crawford 8)
Crowd: 10,587 at Perth Arena