ALBURY-Wodonga Bandits coach Brad Chalmers has placed the onus firmly on his star players after yet another third-quarter meltdown cost the Border club dearly at the weekend.
The Bandits fell 95-76 to a clinical Mount Gambier Pioneers at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre on Saturday night but it was the manner of their fourth consecutive defeat that worried Chalmers most.
In what has become a recurring, embarrassing problem, the Bandits were there in body but barely in spirit for the third quarter.
They allowed a 47-40 half-time deficit to blow out to 80-60 at the final change.
Playing without former skipper Nick Payne (groin injury), import guard Jamar Briscoe top-scored with 26 points, while Jack Duck enjoyed his best game of the SEABL season with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
But mediocre performances from Momo Ntumba (seven points), Alex Opacic (10) and Alex Bogart-King (6) had Chalmers questioning their desire to make the Bandits a better team.
“We just didn’t get enough from our key players,” Chalmers said.
“Those guys are accountable more than anyone else for where we stand.
“They really need to look at what they’re doing and how they’re going about it and how committed they are to making this team successful.
“Our paid players are brought in to steer the ship and Deuce (Briscoe) is having some impact but he can still improve in some areas.
“The other three are just too inconsistent — defensively they’ve all been passive.
“They all looked to make things happen tonight which is great but then they disappear.
“The challenge for them is to fight through it. I can’t control that for them.”
Of chief concern is the ongoing inconsistent form of Ntumba, who is averaging a career-low 12.5 points a game, albeit along with 10.8 rebounds a game.
The Congolese giant has been a surprising non-factor in several games and appears to lack the lift in his legs he had in 2012, perhaps a by-product of last year’s knee surgery.
“He’s just in that rut right now that he needs to get out of,” Chalmers said.
“He needs to find a way — that’s part of being a pro player.
“It won’t always be the way you want it and he’s going through that right now.
“He’s not playing well and he has to stay focused.
“I’d never criticise his effort but there’s times he’s just not playing that smart. He needs to make some adjustments.”
After a bright start, the Bandits had few answers for the talented Pioneers, who enjoyed a balanced scoring attack. All all five starters notched double-digit point totals.
Captain Matt Sutton and import forward Damian Johnson scored 18 apiece, while the smooth-as-silk Brad Hill (17), Ben Allen (16) and playmaker Tom Daly (14 points seven assists) all made significant contributions.
“We just let them dictate what they wanted to do,” Chalmers said.
“We didn’t force them into doing anything different.
“It’s tough. You’re not going to win many games if you’re happy with that.
“They’re just not willing right now to do something about it.”