Ipswich Men made to pay for poor start to first game of 2018

Tola Okiki was a rare bright spot for Ipswich in their loss at Liverpool. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Tola Okiki was a rare bright spot for Ipswich in their loss at Liverpool. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

NBL Division Two Liverpool 93 Ipswich 69 Ipswich kicked off 2018 with a lacklustre first ten minutes, costing them any chance of a result at fellow play-off contenders Liverpool, writes Rob Schatten.

Facing a team who had travelled short-handed to Ipswich earlier in the season and been comfortably beaten, coach John Ellis and his side had been expecting a response from Liverpool, who were third in Division Two at the start of the weekend.

And Liverpool made the most of their size advantage on Ipswich’s guards, as captain David Ulph proved a particular matchup problem for the visitors.

A long delay on the journey north cost Ipswich warm-up time, and this showed in a first quarter which yielded just two field goals for the Suffolk side.

Meanwhile, the hosts, at the beginning of a tough back-to-back in which they also faced division leaders Nottingham Hoods on Sunday, got a terrific start behind the offense of Ulph and guard Kaphel Ulett-Waul.

Ulph alone had 16 points in the first quarter; Ipswich managed just five and trailed 24-5.

Adding to coach Ellis’ frustration, the rest of the game was practically deadlocked. Liverpool’s strong start continued for the first couple of minutes of the second quarter and they stretched the lead to 20 points at 31-11, and edged out further to a 28-point half-time advantage.

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Ipswich finally got going in the second half, with Tola Okiki creating the visitors’ first three scores and Rabi Rai increasingly effective with his pressure defence.

But although Ipswich improved their offense in the second half – scoring 47 of their 69 points in the last two quarters – they struggled to slow Liverpool down.

“We have been guilty of starting off slow in games on too many occasions this year, and today we paid for it,” said coach Ellis.

“If you allow a home team to get comfortable early, especially a talented team like Liverpool with a big, loud crowd behind them, you are making the game so much harder for yourself.”

Ipswich have a chance to get back to winning ways this weekend when they face arch-rivals Derbyshire Arrows in a 7pm tip-off at Copleston on Saturday.