The Vancouver Volcanoes can score in the International Basketball League — as evidenced by four players averaging 20-plus points or more. However on Saturday night, the Volcanoes showed their defensive side during a 128-90 win over the East Bay Pit Bulls.
Vancouver forced 21 steals and held the Pit Bulls to just 31.4 percent shooting as the team improved to 11-3 in the league.
“We played defense,” head coach Joe Navarro said, summing up the key to the 38-point victory. “We’re as good as we’re going to be when we play defense like this.”
The Volcanoes have won four straight games, including two against the Nippon Tornadoes of Japan. During both victories over the Tornadoes (May 25 and June 2), forward Chehales Tapscott led the team with monster games of 40 and 33 points, respectively. On Saturday, it was Andre Murray’s turn to take over.
Murray, playing in only his ninth game after recovering from an ankle injury, led the Volcanoes with 32 points in only 24 minutes of action.
“He scores when he wants,” Navarro said of Murray. “He can score 36 points and we don’t even draw plays for him.”
Vancouver jumped to a 12-2 start, capped by Murray who led the fast break before finding Paul Hafford open for the transition 3-pointer. Hafford’s hot shooting continued as he made three 3-pointers in the first quarter as the Volcanoes began to sow the seeds of a blowout.
After Vancouver led 40-23 after the opening quarter, the disparity between the two teams took shape.
As one of the hottest teams in the league, Vancouver has displayed the dominance that Navarro envisioned from his team since the start of the season.
The Pit Bulls, on the other hand, looked like a collection of players who were still learning teammates’ names. The eight-man roster had only played one game together prior to visiting Vancouver, a fact not lost on the Volcanoes.
“Come out strong,” Murray said, explaining his team’s mindset. “Step on their throats early.”
So, the Volcanoes jumped on their new opponent — staying aggressive beyond the arc and even flashing on-ball pressure on the Pit Bulls’ point guard — and never relinquished control. Through the first half, Vancouver shot 51 percent and Murray eclipsed his season scoring average (21.6) before halftime as he led the team with 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
“I know (my team) needs me to force the issue to start the game,” said Murray.
When point guard Josh Tarver sliced through East Bay’s defense for a buzzer-beating layup, Vancouver owned the 69-40 halftime edge.