The only two teams with active Australian’s on their roster in the 2016 NCAA Tournament both progressed to the round of 32. Freshman Isaac Humphries and Kentucky easily accounted for Stony Brook 85-57 as many expected, however Hawaii, who boast freshman Jakob Cornelissen, busted many brackets by upsetting California 77-66.
As a #13 seed, Hawaii were able to hold off the #4 seeded Golden Bears to cause a big upset and in turn deliver the Rainbow Warriors their first ever NCAA Tournament victory. While Cornelissen did not see any action in his side’s win, Hawaii now progresses into the round of 32. The victory provides Hawaii with great momentum under first year head coach Eran Ganot, who played a key role in helping deliver success at Saint Mary’s College under Randy Bennett. Next season will see red-shirt transfer Jack Purchase and incoming freshman Matt Owies boost the Australian contingent at Hawaii, but for now the Rainbow Warriors keep dancing. For California who toured Australia in preparing for the 2015/16 season, it was a disappointing end to a what promised to be a promising postseason.
Hawaii will next take on the winner of #5 Maryland and #12 South Dakota State on Monday, 21 March (Time TBC).
Kentucky’s superior size and length caused Stony Brook all kinds of trouble as the Wildcats cruised to a commanding first round win. Humphries was injected into the game early but it would be the only 2 minutes he would play. He missed is only scoring opportunity, a relatively straightforward reverse layup, however given the margin it was a little surprising he would not return for more valuable experience in the blowout in.
The Wildcats will face a stiffer challenge when they face second round opponent #5 Indiana from 8:30am AEDT on Sunday, 20 March.
In the opening round of the NIT, Saint Mary’s managed to hold of New Mexico State 58-56 in a frantic final-minute thriller. Dane Pineau missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 with 12 seconds to go that was followed by an Aggies layup that tied the game at 2.1 seconds remaining. The Gael’s were then fouled and made both from the line to seal a 2 point win and advance. Pineau finished with 13 points on 6/7 shooting with 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks, while Emmett Naar was good for 12 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists. Big man Jock Landale came off the bench and went a perfect 4/4 from the field for 9 points in just 12 minutes.
Saint Mary’s will now face Georgia in the second round from 10:30am AEDT on Monday, 21 March.
Albany’s season was ended at the hands of Ohio, going down 90-94 in a high-scoring game. Forward Mike Rowley was impressive, adding 16 points (8/12 FG) with 9 rebounds and 4 assists with no turnovers in a fine all-round display. In what will go down as his final college game, Peter Hooley checked out with an 8 point and 8 rebounds performance with 2 assists. After earning three-straight America East Tournament titles and spending the past three years in the NCAA Tournament, it was a low-key ending to an outstanding collegiate career.
Montana fell short 75-79 to Nevada despite a dazzling performance by Jack Lopez. Lopez was on fire in the first half, scorching his way to 17 points on 6/8 shooting and 5/7 from three-point range as the Grizzlies took a half time lead. He would finish 1-point shy of his career-best, with 20 points (6/9 3PT), 3 rebounds and 2 steals in the narrow loss as Montana were overrun down the stretch. Fabijan Krslovic was able to add 4 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists to end a very good season.
The final year of Venky Jois’ career was extended thanks to Eastern Washington’s 79-72 win over Pepperdine. Jois was restricted to playing just 12 minutes in the Eagles’ first ever post-season victory. He would go on to score 6 points (3 rebounds and 2 assists) despite his sore knee, and in doing so passed 1,800 points in his career – extending his school-record mark to 1,803. Felix Von Hofe was outstanding, contributing 14 points on 4/8 from beyond the arc while also adding a career-best 9 rebounds. Fellow Aussie Jesse Hunt was able to provide 2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 block in 14 minutes.
The Eagles will next take on Nevada from 1:00pm AEDT on Monday, 21 March.
Majok Deng’s amazing senior year ended with an agonising 57-58 loss to Furman on the back of a buzzer-beater. The Warhawks allowed Furman to end the game on an 11-0 run, including a desperation put-back at the buzzer that stole the win. Deng had a good first half, delivering points as Louisiana Monroe opened up a 6 point lead at the main break. However Deng would add just 2 more points for the rest of the game, finishing with 12 points on 5/10 shooting alongside 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 blocked shot.