In stark contrast to last weeks tough opponent, the Raiders matched up with a Wolves side devoid of many wins through the season, sitting firmly at the bottom of the BBL Championship standings with two wins heading into the game.
The Wolves outperformed their lowly status to stun the Raiders, who found themselves misfiring from the second quarter onwards, struggling to keep up and execute the fundamentals.
Post-match, head coach Paul James knew where his team’s troubles lay, he said:
“We just didn’t come out and do what we needed to, we stressed how we needed to play all week in practice and we just didn’t do that.
“We knew Worcester score a lot of points, they’re one the highest scorers in the league, and you’ve just got to try containing that, play defence and score yourself, and we just didn’t have that today.”
The Wolves have proven to be a thorn in the side of the Raiders side twice so far this season and coach James was full of respect for the winning side but was more concerned with his own squad’s effort on the court:
“They’ve always been a good team, they’ve always had a lot of talent and for whatever reason they haven’t been winning.
“More to the point, we just didn’t do what we were supposed to do today, I’m not concerned about what they’re doing, they’ll win some games, but this was a big game for us and I’m really disappointed about the way we came out and applied ourselves.
“It’s just one of those things, sometimes you match-up better with some teams than you do with others and we haven’t matched up well with Worcester this year, I thought we started the game well but then we let them get away.
“But you know, we live to fight another day, we are where we are, you’ve got to win gracefully and lose gracefully, so we’ll move on and get better.”
To begin the first, the Wolves failed to execute on offence, at one point giving up two shot clock violations in a row as the Raiders held strong in the backcourt.
Not all of the Raiders early shots found their target either, but with some defence they still managed to etch a lead with Josh Wilcher providing a timely tear drop lay-in to please the eyes of the onlookers.
Regrettably, the miserable visitor shooting seemed to rub off on the city side, who spent the middle of the first quarter searching for answers after a plethora of poor passes and missed opportunities left the squad grasping for empty points. Players around the arc were creating good separation from the Wolves man coverage, but shooting discipline was lacking.
Some nice long-range shots did eventually find their way to the net, and an aggressive defence by the Wolves in the paint surrendered more to give the Raiders a seven-point lead.
This lead wasn’t to last, though, as the second quarter saw a complete flatline from the Raiders attack that looked incompetent and completely lost at times, only mustering a measly 4 points before last-minute drives propped the score marginally to complete the half.
Initially, messy shooting from both sides carried into the second quarter with the Wolves having the most opportunities to catch up, missing wide open threes and from the line. Deshawn Freeman, in particular, struggled to capitalise on good transitional offence causing a number of blunders to hamper his side.
In an unusual turn of form, Joonas Jarvalainen also had a howler half of his own after coming on from the bench. The Estonian, who normally serves as a rock steady presence from beyond the arc, missed all five of his attempts and was made to look ordinary in the paint, losing the ball more than once to the muscle of the Wolves.
Raider troubles continued and a laboured Wolves 13-2 run gave the visitors a four-point lead which held steady for five minutes. Playing from behind, the Raiders couldn’t find a way to click at all as a squad, trying to push past the Wolves who weren’t playing anything special on defence. Lanes refused to open and quick passes out to the corners found their way out of bounds more often than none.
Freeman improved his stock to end the half with a flourish, palming in a last-second missed Darell Combs three-point shot from downtown. The forwards flash of jubilation was a clear indication of his side’s mood heading into the lockers, as the visitors held a vice-like grip on momentum, leading by 11 to silence the Pavilions.
The poor run of shooting dropped the Raiders average from 55% to 40, but a strong performance from Devontavius Payne, who scored over a third of the sides points at 12, provided some hope of a turnaround in the second half.
Both sides resumed play with flourishes of skill, trading three’s to spark the game into life. But after the opening shot, the Wolves made every point painful to obtain, often forcing the Raiders to scramble under the hoop after blocked balls.
At times the Raiders also seemed to catch tunnel vision off the break, trying to force lanes with the numbers advantage whilst leaving wide open shooters to the sides.
Payne continued to play lights-out for his side, and amid-third quarter dunk finally seemed to do the trick for the sluggish offence who began to show more control whilst shooting. Five points from teammate Wilcher slashed the score down to single digits but mistakes still continued to bite hard.
Still, some nice plays amounted to nothing as points continued to serve as a precious commodity for the Raiders, and the Wolves seemed comfortable in maintaining a eight point lead.
The Raiders entered the fourth quarter still intent with grabbing the lead despite their short comings, but turnovers seemed to stop any momentum in its tracks.
Jarvalainen finally found some rhythm hitting his first shot of a game, followed in succession by a three from beyond the line and another after drawing a foul.
Sensing weakness in the Raiders, the Wolves were hungry for their third win of the season and as the minutes cruised by, the side seemed more and more zeroed in, nailing every shot given to them.
This ferocity was just too much for the Raiders to overcome in a game where they failed to live up to their normal prowess on the court in all phases. Lead by Rashad Hassan and Payne with 20, four of the Raiders starting five ended the game in double digits, but the bench was only able to muster eight points compared with the Wolves 32, a massive deficit for any side to overcome.
The Raiders will now retreat to lick their wounds during the International break after a tough fortnight of play.