The Auckland Tuatara proved too strong for the Taranaki Airs on Saturday night, claiming a 92-59 win in their first ever Sal's NBL game.
The Airs jumped out to an early 21-16 advantage after the first quarter, playing sound defence and keeping the Tuatara on the perimeter. The Tuatara, though, bounced back with a strong second quarter, outscoring the Airs 25-13. The Tuatara never looked back from that point, leading the rest of the way en route to a commanding victory.
Tall Black Rob Loe had himself a debut to remember with 17 points and 15 rebounds on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. In what was a physical matchup downlow against fellow Tall Black Tay Wynyard, Loe went to work in the post and finished with an almost perfect shooting night.
Import Chris Johnson picked up where he left off last season with a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double in 30 minutes of work, while Taki Fahrensohn showed why he's a name to keep an eye on in 2022 scoring 17 points. Dontae Russo-Nance struggled with his shot in this one (6-of-15) but still managed to be productive with 12 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals.
The Tuatara shot just 7-of-24 from three as a team, but it'll only take some minor adjustments to iron out that area of their game. They certainly made a statement with tonight's big win, and the frontcourt duo of Loe and Johnson looks like a force to be reckoned with.
For the Airs, Tai Wynyard dropped a team-high 16 points to go along with six rebounds in 28 minutes, while Richie Rodger managed nine points in his first game with Taranaki. Veteran Aaron Bailey-Nowell contributed 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in the loss.
They played some solid defence at times during the contest, so there's certainly positives they can take away. They'll be right back at it tomorrow night against the Manawatu Jets.
SCORE: Tuatara 92, Airs 59
Tuatara: Loe 17 PTS & 15 REB | Johnson 17 PTS & 14 REB | Russo-Nance 12 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL
Airs: Wynyard 16 PTS & 6 REB | Bailey-Nowell 10 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL | Rodger 9 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Rob Loe (Tuatara) - 10 votes
Chris Johnson (Tuatara) - 8 votes
Tai Wynyard (Airs) - 5 votes
Dontae Russo-Nance (Tuatara) - 3 votes
Taki Fahrensohn (Tuatara) - 2 votes
Carlin Davison (Airs) - 1 vote
Aaron Bailey-Nowell (Airs) - 1 vote
Tuatara - May 6 @ Auckland Tuatara
Airs - May 1 @ Manawatu Jets
Round 1 Sal's NBL Schedule