Jock Landale’s move to the NBA led to gloomy predictions for Melbourne United, but naysayers forgot there was a ready-made replacement on the roster.
After two losses to open the season, naysayers were bathing in the reigning champions’ matches.
But, fast-forwarding to a fifth straight win, those same people are beginning to eat their words, and the man who has upped his game while Landale plies his trade for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA is a big reason why.
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Jo Lual-Acuil has been a constant force in the middle for United all season long, averaging career highs across the board while playing goalkeeper for the tightest defense in the NBL.
Friday night’s showdown with New Zealand was billed as a clash of two of the league’s most improved big men in Lual-Acuil and Breakers weapon Yanni Wetzell.
It became a one-sided affair, with Lual-Acuil mincing the Kiwi with a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds in an 89-78 win.
Not that you get any hype from the 27-year-old.
“Actually, it wasn’t so much that I attacked Yanni, we just took what the defense was giving us,” Lual-Acuil said.
“He’s a great player, but it wasn’t me against him, it was United against the Breakers.”
If you’ve been up close at a United game and heard Lual-Acuil talk to some of his opponents, and even the oddball owner of the rival team, you know there’s probably more to it than he’s saying.
JLA have another main meeting on Sunday when United take on the Illawarra Hawks and the wide-bodied Boomer Duop Reath.
Fellow Sudanese Reath, and Illawarra, are a different proposition. The 75-inch tower will drag Lual-Acuil to the 3-point arc and use his athleticism on the defensive end for a Hawks team that has only lost once in five starts this season.
Surrounded by scoring machines in Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Antonius Cleveland, and his frontcourt running mate Sam Froling, Reath and the Hawks will believe they have the firepower to split a United defense that keeps teams at bay. 71 points, the best in the league. per night
In a matchup of teams with polar philosophies, and two master coaches in Dean Vickerman and Brian Goorjian, expect fireworks.
HAWKS VS UNITED
Illawarra Hawks 4-1 (2nd) vs. Melbourne United 5-2 (4th) Sunday, 1pm, WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong Watch it on ESPN and Kayo
Falcons: WWWLW United: WWWWW
falcons Points: D Reath, 17.4 Rebounds: S Froling, 10.0 Assists: T Harvey, 3.2
United Points: C Goulding, 18.2 Rebounds: J Lual-Acuil, 7.43 Assists: M Dellavedova, 5.29
Five probable starters
harvey Jessup cleveland Fröling death
dellavedova Goulding agada White Lual-Acuil
players to watch
falcons Tyler Harvey He skinned the Kings with 23 points on 10 shots last time out. If Harvey gets hot, he can quickly draw the curtain.
United chris goulding The evergreen marksman remains the most important man on the pitch in a United offense that is still coming together. The opposition man coaches must stop.
“A very quality team, they have scorers all over the place and obviously we know they are a very well-coached team, so it’s a great test for us. We have been winning some games, but this is another test. to???? Chris GouldingMelbourne United