HAWKS 108 BREAKERS 78

The New Zealand Breakers are sweating on the return of captain Pero Cameron after an injury-depleted side suffered their heaviest Australian National Basketball (ANBL) defeat at Wollongong last night.

The Hawks swamped the new franchise 108-78 for the Breakers' second successive loss following their one-point win on debut at home against Adelaide.

Cameron is gradually recovering from a ruptured medial ligament in his left knee, but a strained tendon in the sole of his right foot has complicated his comeback, which is expected to be delayed until the end of the month.

His absence was compounded by the late withdrawal of Australian forward Ben Melmeth, the Breakers top scorer in their first two matches, who tweaked a thigh muscle during the team's practice.

Wollongong were not about to show any mercy with a superior outside shooting effort. They were comfortably in control of the game throughout.

Guard Matt Campbell led the way with a career-high 32 points, three more than his previous best.

Campbell was well supported by Darnell Mee, who contributed 11 assists, five steals and nine points.

The Hawks dominated from the tip off and the margin would have been greater had the Breakers not rallied in the final quarter to shave a 38-point deficit heading into the final stanza.

Head coach Jeff Green said the players must regroup ahead of next Sunday's home encounter against the Melbourne Tigers.

"They'll have to go and look inside themselves for answers," Green said.

"It's a personal challenge now for them to do the things we require to be a good side and a smart one."

"One of the things these guys have to learn is the intensity of the competition week in and week out," Green said.

"If you slacken off for 30 seconds, you can get spanked by five to 10 points immediately - and that's the difference."

While the Hawks were on a hot streak outside the arc, the Breakers failed with all 11 three-point attempts in the first half and managed just four from 21 overall. They also gave up a costly 15 turnovers in the first half.

Green was hopeful Melmeth would be back in action against the Tigers but said the injury was frustrating.

"It's one of those injuries that can be good one day and bad the next."

Fellow Australian forward Blake Truslove made his long-awaited debut after suffering ankle and hand injuries in the pre-season to score 12 points.

Canadian-born Kiwi guard Aaron Olson top scored with 19.

Wollongong Hawks 108 (Matt Campbell 32, John Mueller 17)

New Zealand Breakers 78 (Aaron Olson 19, Brad Williams 15).

Halftime: 59-35.

- NZPA