By Lachy France
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames are aiming to atone their overtime defeat at the first opportunity when they take on the Melbourne Boomers at home this Friday night.
The Boomers currently sit at 3-4 and a win for the Flames would see them jump the Melbourne side on the WNBL ladder.
Both teams sit just below the .500 mark coming into this game, with the Flames sitting on two wins through five games and the Boomers collecting three wins from their seven contests to this point. However, both teams could have far superior records if not for some tight losses. Two of Melbourne’s losses have been by three points or less, while the Flames’ losses have all been by single digit margins. With that in mind, both teams will be desperate to ensure that they don’t let another potential win slip away in tight circumstances.
Asia Taylor has been the standout player for the Flames in recent games. Despite arriving at the club only shortly before the start of season, the Connecticut Sun WNBA player has seamlessly integrated into the side and now leads the Flames in rebounding with 8.2 per game and sits second in the scoring ranks with 16 points per game. Taylor has put up double-doubles in the Flames’ last two games, including a 19 point, 13 rebound performance in the home win over Townsville a fortnight ago, and the former Louisville star will be relied upon to be a force in the paint yet again against Melbourne.
While Taylor has been getting it done in the paint for the Flames, it has been the Boomers’ backcourt that has fired for the most part to this point. Their scoring is led by guard pairing Brittany Smart and Maddie Garrick, who lead them with 13.4 points per game apiece so far this season. Smart has shot the ball at 48% from the field this season to lead the Boomers, and has also shot 86% from the free throw line to this point, so keeping the American away from the charity stripe will be a point of focus in this game. That may be easier said than done though, with Smart’s ability to get to the basket as one of her best weapons.
With plenty of speed in the lineup, led by Opals point guard Leilani Mitchell, the Flames have been playing at a lightning pace all season, averaging almost 10% more possessions per game than this weekend’s opponents. The Flames’ ability to play at that high pace will be crucial to their chances of defeating the Boomers, but they must ensure that they do not let their high pace lead to impatience and bad decisions as the game progresses.
If the Flames can keep their heads and play smart basketball throughout the contest, it will go a long way to a crucial win as the season really begins to take form and teams begin to separate themselves from the chasing pack. A loss would see the Flames drop to 2-4 and really put themselves behind the eight ball at this point.
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