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Bulls take down Nuggets, move to 4-0

The Franklin Bulls have established themselves as the team to beat in the National Basketball League (NBL).

All five Bulls starters scored in double-digits as Franklin improved to 4-0 with a 105-71 win over the Otago Nuggets in a top-of-the-table clash at 'The Stockyard' in Pukekohe on Thursday night.

American forward Luther Muhammad led the Bulls with 25 points (9/22 FG, 6/6 FT), six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block, while Tall Blacks guard Ethan Rusbatch put up 17 points (6/12 FG, 5/9 3pt), seven boards and two steals.

Second import Jarrell Brantley scored 16 points (7/11 FG), with nine rebounds, while Kiwi big man Sam Timmins added 14 points (7/10 FG), nine boards and four steals, and Josh Scott 12 points (4/6 FG, 4/4 FT) and six assists.

The Nuggets' American forward Kimani Lawrence dropped a game-high 26 points (11/17 FG, 4/7 FT), with nine rebounds and two steals.

He was supported by Ben Henshall, who went close to a triple-double, with 18 points (7/21 FG, 2/13 3pt), 10 boards, seven assists and two steals, and Zaccheus Darko-Kelly with 15 points (5/14 FG, 2/9 3pt) and six assists.

The Nuggets, without suspended guard Tai Webster, got just four points from their bench and just 12 points outside of the top-three scorers.

Ethan Rusbatch Franklin Bulls NBL basketball
Ethan Rusbatch hit five threes for the Franklin Bulls. PHOTO: NBL

The Nuggets kept the game close, and even led once, for the first half of the opening quarter. But the Bulls went on a 16-4 run, including a pair of threes from Rusbatch, to stretch out by 12 points.

The visitors kept the Bulls mostly in check until late in the third period, when the Bulls scored 12 straight points, culminating with another Rusbatch triple in the final seconds, to head into the fourth with a 20-point lead.

With the game already decided, the Bulls turned it into a one-sided affair with an 18-2 run over the final six minutes as head coach Sebastian Gleim gave his bench an extended run.

The Bulls (4-0) meet the cross-town Auckland Tuatara (3-2) in their next game on Wednesday (tip-off 7.30pm) on the North Shore, while the Nuggets (3-1) are back at home for the Canterbury Rams (1-2) on Thursday (tip-off 2pm).

Franklin Bulls 105 (Luther Muhammad 25, Ethan Rusbatch 17, Jarrell Brantley 16, Sam Timmins 14, Josh Scott 12) Otago Nuggets 71 (Kimani Lawrence 26, Ben Henshall 18, Zaccheus Darko-Kelly 15). 1Q: 29-20, HT: 52-41, 3Q: 81-61


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