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Tuatara bounce back; Bulls ground Jets


The Auckland Tuatara have bounced back from their first loss of the National Basketball League (NBL) season in fine style on Sunday.


The Tuatara's 'Kiwi Core Four' - Rob Loe, Tom Vodanovich, Corey Webster and Reuben Te Rangi - shot the lights out and combined for 100 points in their 111-99 win over the defending champion Canterbury Rams at Christchurch's Cowles Stadium.



Leading the way was 2023 NBL MVP Loe, who scored a team-high 33 points (14/23 FG, 5/8 3pt), with 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block.


Not far behind was Vodanovich, with 31 points (11/12 FG, 6/7 3pt) and eight boards, while Webster finished with 25 points (9/15 FG, 5/7 3pt), five rebounds and 10 assists, and Te Rangi 11 points (3/9 FG, 2/5 3pt), seven boards and nine assists.


The loss soured a NBL season-high 41 points (12/26 FG, 8/20 3pt, 9/11 FT), to go with five rebounds and three steals, from the Rams' new import forward James Walker Jr.


3x3 Tall Black Taylor Britt had 18 points (7/10 FG, 4/6 FT), five assists and three steals, Walter Brown 12 points (4/5 FG, 4/4 3pt) and Kaia Isaac chipped in with a double-double of 11 points (4/8 FG, 3/6 3pt), 10 rebounds and four assists off the bench.


Rob Loe Auckland Tuatara basketball
Rob Loe hit five triples in his 33 points for the Auckland Tuatara. PHOTO: NBL

The game turned on a near-immaculate quarter in the second as the Tuatara went 17-of-19 from the field, including 11 threes, blitzing the unfortunate Rams 47-26 to take a 19-point lead into the main break.


Loe and Webster, who combined to shoot 12-of-12, seemed to be competing with each other for most points and most threes in the quarter as the Tuatara put on a shooting clinic. For the record, Webster had 17 points and five triples, Loe 15 points and three bombs.


The Tuatara ended the game shooting 56 percent (18-of-32) on three-point attempts and 57 percent (41-of-71) from the field.


The shell-shocked Rams fell behind by 28 points in the third period before recovering, with a late 21-7 run reduced it to a 12-point result.


The Tuatara (3-2) have the bye in Week 4, before their next game on April 24 at home against the cross-town Franklin Bulls (3-0), while the Rams (1-2) travel to Napier to face the Bay Hawks (2-1) on Saturday (tip-off 7.30pm).



Later on Sunday, the Bulls joined the Otago Nuggets at 3-0 with an almost wire-to-wire 101-83 win over the Manawatu Jets at The Stockyard.


American forward Luther Muhammad scored a team-high 24 points (10/20 FG, 4/5 FT), to go with five rebounds and 10 assists, while Ethan Rusbatch bounced out of his early-season funk with 22 points (8/14 FG, 6/12 3pt), seven boards, two steals and a block.


Elsewhere for the Bulls, Sam Timmins had 17 points (8/10 FG), seven rebounds and three blocks, Isaac Davidson 15 points (5/7 FG, 2/3 3pt) and five boards, and Jarrell Brantley eight points and eight rebounds.


Troy Baxter Jr racked up a game-high 30 points (9/17 FG, 6/11 3pt, 6/7 FT) for the Jets, while fellow American Mustapha Heron scored 20 points (8/24 FG), with six rebounds and seven assists. Simon Lafaele and Liam Judd each had 11 points.


The Bulls trailed in the early minutes, but used their dominance inside, where they scored 62 points in the paint for the game, to build a 17-point lead in the second period.


Manawatu, behind 12 points and three triples from Baxter Jr, cut the lead to four with a 19-6 run around halftime. However, Franklin answered with an 11-1 stretch to give themselves breathing room and the Jets only got within single-figures once the rest of the way.


The Bulls (3-0) are next in action on Thursday (tip-off 7.30pm) at home in a top-of-the-table match-up with the Nuggets (3-0), while the Jets (1-4) have to regroup quickly before facing the Nelson Giants (1-3) on the road on Wednesday (tip-off 7.30pm).


Auckland Tuatara 111 (Rob Loe 33, Tom Vodanovich 31, Corey Webster 25, Reuben Te Rangi 11) Canterbury Rams 99 (James Walker Jr 41, Taylor Britt 18, Walter Brown 12, Kaia Isaac 11). 1Q: 19-21, HT: 66-47, 3Q: 91-71


Franklin Bulls 101 (Luther Muhammad 24, Ethan Rusbatch 22, Sam Timmins 17, Isaac Davidson 15) Manawatu Jets 83 (Troy Baxter Jr 30, Mustapha Heron 20, Simon Lafaele 11, Liam Judd 11). 1Q: 32-26, HT: 58-50, 3Q: 79-67

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