PLAY smarter, and tougher.
They will be two of the key points of the Newcastle Hunters' game plan when they play Bankstown Bruins in the Waratah Basketball League men's championship at Broadmeadow tonight.
Newcastle have split their opening two against likely title contenders Norths and Manly-Warringah to be seventh, and are smarting after falling 84-73 at home to the Sea Eagles last Saturday.
The Hunters are in the middle of a three-game home stretch and, in a condensed season, are determined to make amends against the winless Bruins.
"We need to be smarter, and we need to be better at handling the physical side of the game. They're the main things we want to stress," Newcastle coach Rex Nottage said.
"We didn't do a very good job of handling Manly's physicality last week and they really took us out of what we wanted to do.
"Defensively, we need to do a better job of containing the ball and not relying so much on our help defence, so everyone has to take responsibility for that and focus on their own assignments. Offensively, we need to get better with ball reversals so we don't get so bogged down.
"Having said all that, I'm happy with the way the group is starting to come together, considering how everyone has been thrown into the mix under difficult circumstances, so we're working out everyone's strengths and looking to play to those over these next eight weeks."
Forward Chier Maker will try to reset the radar after making just four of 18 shots last Saturday. Maker led the Hunters with 15 points, and hit four of eight from behind the arc, but his only other points came from the free-throw line.
Nottage hopes to give veteran Tom Dawson more time on the floor after the former Sydney Comets big man played just 11 minutes off the bench against Manly to relieve starting centre Myles Cherry.
Matur Maluach remains unavailable because of an ankle injury but Nottage plans to introduce Victorian recruit Makur Jongkuch into the rotation.
The 18-year-old guard, who played for Werribee in the Big V championship last season, was only cleared to play 24 hours before the game against Manly. Jongkuch played a handful of minutes in Newcastle's 78-58 Youth League victory over the Sea Eagles but was not used in the men's game.
Bankstown, the 2016 Waratah League champions, have lost to Norths (93-73) and Canberra (87-72) since the competition began a fortnight ago.
As was the case last Saturday, the game tonight is closed to the general public because of COVID-19 restrictions but can be seen via Newcastle Basketball's Facebook page.
Bankstown, who won seven Waratah League titles between 2003 and 2015, did not nominate a women's team this year so Newcastle have the bye.
Newcastle's men's and women's teams will be at home again next Saturday against Canberra.