Goulding catches fire as United rout Hawks

A 25-point first-half explosion from Chris Goulding was all Melbourne United needed to hand the Illawarra Hawks a 102-87 smackdown in Wollongong.

While Goulding put on a shooting clinic for the NBL ladder-leaders, teammate Jock Landale stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks on Tuesday night.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian, who doubles as Australia's national team coach, said players in contention for selection for Tokyo were always looking to impress in an Olympic year.

"In order to be an Olympian they need to play well, and who better to play well against than the Hawks," Goorjian said.

"As I've said to my team when I started this, 'You're gonna get those players' best shots'. And tonight, Jock and Goulding were tremendous.

"Disappointing for the Hawks and again, we didn't have an answer for it. But on the national side, pretty exciting how well those two are playing right now."

Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman admitted challenging the players, including guard Mitch McCarron, pre-game, about impressing Goorjian.

"I challenged them tonight (and said), 'You want to make the Olympics, you're in front of the coach, you've got to go kick his arse tonight'," he said.

"That's got to be a motivation about how you get selected for the team. I thought all three of those guys that are in strong consideration for the group, put their hand up."

United's offence rendered a Hawks defence, which had limited teams to a league-low 42.5 per cent shooting over the past six games, powerless in a display that'll send shudders through the league.

Illawarra were led by Deng Deng's 15 points off the bench, with star pair Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup held to just 10 and 11 points respectively.

The defeat for the Hawks drops their record to 15-15 for the season, but, more crucially, allows the Sydney Kings to steal fourth spot on percentages with seven games remaining before the finals.

An upset appeared on the cards when Illawarra ambushed Melbourne with a 13-5 run from the tipoff, sparked by eight early points from Jessup.

But United were quick to recover, with Goulding nailing four triples in as many minutes, along with two from David Barlow, to take a one-point lead after the opening quarter.

Goulding, however, was only getting warmed up, firing another four bombs, seemingly stepping further out with each attempt, to lead his team to a commanding nine-point halftime lead.

His scorching first-half effort, with his 7-10 from distance part of a 12-22 mark as a team, is the most in a single half by any player so far this season.

The Boomers guard cooled off after the resumption but United didn't need him, with Landale taking over with 10 points in the third to shatter Illawarra's spirit.

Both coaches emptied their bench in a fourth-quarter procession, with the Hawks resting up for two games in three days, beginning with Adelaide on Friday, and then Cairns on Sunday.