NBL21: Melbourne United wins thriller against Perth Wildcats

Chris Goulding is Melbourne United.

When he eventually hangs up his jersey, it will be raised high in the rafters of John Caine Arena as the man who did more for Melbourne basketball than anyone since the great Andrew Gaze.

But, sometimes, a club’s most cherished player needs a little help from his friends — even in his milestone 150th game in the United jersey — and his teammates got the job done in a 75-71 victory over Perth Wildcats that kept his side’s blemishless record intact.

It is usually CG43 taking — and making — the big shots down the stretch.

But, one game removed from piling on 27 points in a win over Brisbane, Goulding managed just five points on 2-6 shooting against Perth Wildcats before the dreaded sniper in the crowd struck in the third quarter.

Goulding limped from the court, his afternoon done with an ice wrap on his left calf.

In the past, that might have been curtains for United.

Not for this version.

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Perth led by eight with five minutes left in the third, nemesis Bryce Cotton doing as he pleased with a game-high 17 points. Goulding then departed but, from there, it was all United.

With defensive dynamo Shea Ili out with an ankle injury, the task on Cotton was always going to be an arduous one. Everyone from struggling import Scott Hopson, to defensive bull Mitch McCarron to little-used Sam Short had a crack at the two-time NBL MVP in the first half.

None of them had success as the Perth star wrote the beginning of a familiar story for United — he averages 19.5 points in 11 wins and 7 losses.

Yudai Baba stepped up to help United stop Bryce Cotton and the Wildcats. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Enter new cult figure Yudai Baba.

The Japanese guard not only filled Goulding’s offensive void with 14 points, but also put the clamps on Cotton.

Coach Dean Vickerman had already ordained Baba as the best Asian to play in the NBL and it’s hard to argue.

The Japanese guard made buckets when called upon and then used his speed to clamp down on Cotton, harassing and haranguing United’s nemesis, producing two steals and two blocks in the process.

“Yudai was such a massive factor in the second half in just slowing Bryce down a little bit and making everything as difficult as possible,” Vickerman said.

“He was certainly far beyond when we recruited him, what he has shown me defensively. Amazing the defence he was playing at one end and still able to knock in some mid-range jumpers and be aggressive at the rim at the other end, a pretty complete game from him.

“Our defence held them to under 35 per cent, only seven made three-pointers, so really pleased with that end of the floor today.”

United coach Dean Vickerman praised his charges for their work at the defensive end. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Of course, you can only cage a bull for so long and, after going scoreless for almost an entire quarter, Cotton (24 points) turned on the afterburners to eat into United’s 10-point lead with 2.38 left in the match. First he splashed back-to-back deep buckets to reduce the margin to five. He then made a lay up in the lane to make it three.

United did its best to cough the game up, missing wide open shots and producing a pair of horror turnovers, one to Jack White (7pts, 8reb) and one to Jock Landale, that gave Perth more hope than they deserved.

But, with Baba fouled out and the Wildcats down two, the ball in Cotton’s hands, he would make the fatal mistake.

Cotton dribbled the ball off his own leg and into the back court, giving possession back to United and effectively surrendering the match.

From there, the Wildcats chose not to foul and, while Scotty Hopson missed a layup, White ripped down a massive offensive rebound and then Landale stepped up to ice the contest, draining a pair of clutch freebies with 2.3 seconds left.


Vickerman confirmed Goulding had injured his calf.

“It’s a calf strain right now as far as we know,” Vickerman said after the game.

“He’ll take some scans tomorrow.

“Once he checked out of the game, the medical advice was that he couldn’t come back.

“Hopefully it’s a minor one and it doesn’t hold him out too long.”

Bryce Cotton had an epic battle with Yudai Baba. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


Punters and pundits doubt the Perth Wildcats every year.

They love to hate the team from the west with the rabid fanbase that has an “us-against-the-world” mindset.

But, every year, they forget about one thing: the little bloke with three NBL championships and three scoring titles who just refuses to lose.

Forget the players around Cotton, the Wildcats had no business even being in the game at 10 points down with two minutes remaining.

If the Australian Government is on Team Boomer, it would clean up its act, cut the red tape and get this guy naturalised — stat. What a luxury it would be to have someone with his playmaking ability to come off the bench behind NBA star Patty Mills?

But that’s another story.

Jock Landale showed off his full array of skills. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


Landale is one of the classiest, most versatile players in the NBL.

Put simply, he’s a joy to watch, whether he is battling close to the basket with the tall timber, or flaring out to three-point range and draining them from deep, there are few who can match his versatility.

He only took seven shots — Vickerman would surely like that number to be higher — but he led United’s scoring with 16 points, to go with six rebounds and three assists.

He should be in the NBA.

Originally published asGoulding gets a little help from his friends in milestone game

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