PLYMOUTH University Raiders have been urged to put on a big pre-Christmas performance against Leicester Riders at the Pavilions on Sunday (4pm).
Raiders’ coach Jay Marriott wants big minutes on the court from his team for the eagerly-awaited BBL Championship clash with their east Midlands visitors.
Marriott is boosted by the return to the squad of forwards Trevor Setty and Ben Eaves – the former being granted compassionate leave to return to the United States and the latter rested to let his ankle injury recover.
However, Plymouth will be without the injured Tom Woods, who damaged his ankle ligaments during Raiders’ morale-boosting, runaway 104-76 victory at Birmingham Knights last Saturday.
Woods is expected to be out of action for six weeks or more but that is better news as Raiders had feared the centre had broken his ankle.
Great Britain international Nick George is also among Marriott’s men in green, bidding to put recent defeats to Riders to bed in their last game before Christmas.
Riders ended Plymouth’s hopes of early silverware, with a comprehensive aggregate victory of 199-166 from the two-legged BBL Cup semi-final.
Raiders just missed out by six points (95-89) in the first leg at the Pavilions, but last term’s treble-winning side blew Plymouth out of the water in the away return, going through 104-77.
Marriott wants those losses to spur Raiders into putting on the kind of display which he believes they are more than capable of and giving the home fans a taste of what is to come in the first – and toughest – of five home games either side of the new year.
“There’ll be no trouble with motivation, that’s for sure,” said Marriott, whose team then host Manchester (December 29), Glasgow and Cheshire, (January 4/5 respectively), then Durham in the BBL Trophy on January 18.
“There’s a big contrast between ourselves and Leicester, who try to wrestle and get on top of you and when they do, they don’t let go.
“We need to make sure that we’re pushing the pace all the time: play fast and put them on their heels.
“Of course, it’s easier said than done, though.”
Marriott added: “Trevor got back on Wednesday so aside from the injury to Tom (Woods), we’ve got a fully-fit squad.
“It’s not perfect preparation with Trevor returning so close to a big game, but I believe it was absolutely the right thing to do and I’d much rather go down that path.
“I know the team will be a lot closer for it and even though I’m a big preparation guy, at the end of the day sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture.
“Ben seems ready to go now, which is really good news, too.”
Marriott admitted meeting and beating Birmingham after the defeats to Riders and then being edged out in the league at home to Sheffield Sharks, was a shot in the arm for his Plymouth players.
“The Birmingham game came at a good time for us in terms of building confidence,” said Marriott.
“We’re still striving for that consistency, even though I have no hesitation in saying we’re one of the most exciting teams in the league.
“But that doesn’t always translate into wins, especially against the bigger teams.
“Anyone watching us against Birmingham would have been highly entertained.
“I don’t think I’ve been involved on a team that had quite as many dunks in one game – we must have had near 20.
“But we must have consistency and continuity, as we showed against Birmingham a tendency to switch off a bit.
“We’ve talked about that in training this week – it’s just little things at this stage of the season.
“We’re where we are in the league for a reason and not up with the top four, who get wins even when they’re not playing well. They do the little things right.
“That’s what we as a team long-term have got to try and become.”