John Rillie has praised the mentality of his team in helping turn their fortunes around.

18 Nov
Dan Woods for

The tides look to have well and truly turned for the Perth Wildcats who, after a tough start to the season, defeated the Cairns Taipans on Thursday night to extend their current winning streak to four games.

Perth opened the game strongly on the offensive end, but some of the issues surrounding turnovers and rebounding began to creep into the side as the Taipans looked to wrestle back control at RAC Arena, however the Wildcats adjusted at half time to help put the game to bed.

Keanu Pinder struggled against his former side and had only four points in 22 minutes. He also had four fouls and four turnovers, but Next Star Alexandre Sarr thrived off the bench in the absence of the back-to-back Most Improved Player.

Head coach John Rillie says the togetherness his side is fostering is helping them continue their rapid and seemingly overnight improvement.

“Everyone comes in with a great purpose and selflessness for each other. I think that’s reflecting in our play and the way the guys are enjoying playing on the floor for each other,” Rillie said post-game.

“Guys are covering up for each other, guys are encouraging each other, we’re playing well – that’s easy to do – but I think we’re comfortable with who we’re becoming.

“Our biggest growth has been at the defensive end, but also rebounding. [In the] first half it felt like we were figuring out the game.

“They had nine offensive rebounds, we had eight turnovers, those two statistics and the way we like to play and what I value – they weren’t good so we tightened that up in the second half and that’s where I felt like we started to control the game a little better.

“[Now] we’ve got an opportunity Saturday against a team who come in here and embarrassed us.”

Sarr’s time with the Wildcats has seen him soar to the top end of a number of trusted mock drafts. He’s currently listed as the second best prospect by both ESPN and Bleacher Report, and the number one pick by The Athletic.

Thursday’s clash was his first game since being named as The Athletic’s top prospect, and he performed well with 12 points, two steals and two blocks.

“The things I ask Alex to bring every game is his tenacity at the defensive end and to be active,” Rillie said.

“You see us at the offensive end we have a good purpose in the way we’re playing right now, we have a good flow, we’re sharing the ball, so we’re going to get rewarded at that end but we have to make it happen at the defensive end.

“His rebounding, his rim presence, tonight his ability to get out on the floor and keep those guys in front was really impressive.”

Perth take on Brisbane on Saturday night at 8pm AEDT, live on ESPN via Kayo.

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