NCAA Men: Landale named National Player of the Week as the freshman answer the call

Jock Landale | Credit: Tod Fierner/ Saint Mary's College Athletics

Jock Landale continues to lead a host of Aussie big men who are starring in college basketball, while a host of other Aussie men performed well across the past week including an impressive freshman class who are lifting and answering the call from their respective teams.

Saint Mary’s are riding the outstanding form of their star Australian centre in extending their winning streak to 14 wins following an impressive win over nationally ranked Gonzaga on the road (74-71), and backed up with another road win against Pacific (72-69) that enabled them to re-enter the national rankings at #16.

While he has been outstanding all season, the Melburnian was exceptional across his last three games. He registered a monster 32 points on an amazing 13-15 shooting, alongside 12 rebounds and 4 assists as he helped the Gaels dismantle Pepperdine 91-67. Tanner Krebs stepped up to drained 4-4 from long-range in adding 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, and Emmett Naar dished out a staggering 14 assists with 5 points. However the best was yet to come for the Gaels and Landale in their next outings.

In the WCC heavyweight match-up with Gonzaga, Landale was almost unguardable in the post [see his post play here from the game]. Behind a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds from Landale, the Gaels came from behind and held off the home side in front of their frenzied fans to pick up the marquee win that their resume lacked. The big man’s hook shot was on target, shooting a sizzling 12-15 from the field, while also picking up 3 assists and 2 blocks in another complete performance. He had good support from Emmett Naar who clocked up 8 more assists, while Krebs was again able to hit double figures with 10 points and 6 rebounds. There were 22 lead changes, 19 of them coming in the first half, with the Gaels shooting an impressive 52.4% from the field behind Landale’s efficient play.

The Gaels narrowly avoided a let down against Pacific to close out a 4-game road trip with a 3 point win. Again, they got the job done behind a 32 point and 7 rebound performance from Landale who continued to push his case to be considered the best centre in college basketball this season, and one of the best players overall. Naar chipped in 12 points with 6 assists–with the senior point guard now second in the nation for assists in averaging 9.1 per game. The senior point guard is now just 55 assists away from breaking Matthew Dellavedova’s school record of 778 across his career.

Landale however has been the undisputed star. He is 12th in the country in points (22.4), 16th in rebounds (10.2), eighth in field-goal percentage (65.7), first in total field-goals made (188), eighth in total points (471), 11th in total rebounds (215) and sixth with 13 double-doubles on the year. The senior has scored at least 30 points in five games this season, and as a result of his big week, has now earned the West Coast Conference Player of the Week honours for a fourth time, and was this week also named the NBC Sports and Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. Landale was also recently named on the Wooden Award Top 25, Lou Henson, Lute Olson, and Oscar Robertson Award mid-season watch lists and is enjoying what is arguably the best season by an Australian big man since Andrew Bogut and more recently Cameron Bairstow — both of whom were drafted to the NBA albeit at different ends of the spectrum.

Another big man has been enjoying a dominant senior year at Baylor, with Jo Lual-Acuil Jr making a great case to be drafted to the NBA. He has scored in double figures across his last 7 games, although the Bears have experienced some ups and downs over that time. Against #10 ranked Kansas, the 7-footer delivered a solid 14 point and 12 rebound double-double as his team’s equal leading scorer. Despite winning the rebound count, their 2-20 three-point shooting cost them dearly, with the Jayhawks holding off a late challenge for a 70-67 win.

Baylor would find themselves in a similar position against Kansas State. Trailing at half time, they fought back in the second half to only fall short yet again, this time 90-83. Lual-Acuil Jr would tally an equal game-high 14 points including 1-1 from downtown with 6 rebounds. Despite having won just 2 out of their last 8 games, Baylor’s Lual-Acuil Jr has been a standout for the Bears. The centre is second on the team for scoring with 15.3 points per game, while also adding team-best numbers of 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest.

Senior power forward Duop Reath is also pushing to have his name spoken of in the same breath as Landale and Lual-Acuil Jr. After scoring back-to-back 12 points games in LSU’s losses to Alabama (74-66) and Georgia (61-60), the 6’11 senior exploded against Vandebilt. He would go on to shoot 13-20 from the field, including 1-2 from beyond the arc, as he compiled a new career-high 31 points with 13 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Trailing for almost all of the game, Reath put LSU ahead 65-64 for the first time with  just over 2 minutes left to play. However Vandberilt withstood the Tigers’ charge to prevail 71-77. Unfortunately for the Tigers it was their 3rd straight loss and has them placed 11th in the Southeastern Conference with a 2-4 record.

Winthrop is currently on a 4 game winning streak, and it is no surprise to find that senior forward Xavier Cooks is leading the Eagles’ charge. Cooks has delivered three consecutive double-doubles in as many games, and 9 straight games in scoring in double figures. In Winthrop’s wire-to-wire 90-67 win over Gardner-Webb, Cooks was just 2 assists shy of a rare triple-double. He finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocked shots. In that same game, the Bulldog’s Jamaal Robateau chipped in 10 points on 4-7 shooting in a losing cause.

Cooks would step up again as Winthrop easily accounted for UNC Asheville 58-85. The 6’9 forward tallied 15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks in just 22 minutes as he completely dominated the court. with the minutes spread around, Kyle Zunic came off the bench to provide 12 points on 2-6 triples alongside 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 21 minutes.

Continuing their great team play, Winthrop proved far too good for Presbyterian in the second half to clock up an 81-68 victory. Cooks fired in 7-10 from the field en-route to a game-high 19 points. He also pulled down 11 rebounds while also gathering 3 assists and 2 blocks as he ensured his name remained in discussion for All-Big South award discussions. For his big week in which he averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.7 blocks, he collected the Big South Player of the Week award for the 3rd time this season and 5th in his career.

Chima Moneke made it three straight games of scoring 20 or more when he logged a new career-high 29 in UC Davis’ narrow 5 point loss to Cal State Fullerton. The Aggies quickly fell behind by 10 early on and from there were always battling up hill. Moneke was almost playing a lone hand too, with only one other Aggie scoring in double figures. The 6’6 senior forward went 8-15 from the field and an impressive 12-13 from the charity stripe in compiling his big haul, also tallying 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in one of his most impressive performances to date, albeit in a 70-85 loss.

Looking to bounce back from the loss, Moneke would for the first time this season fail to score in double figures and his run of double-doubles end at . While he would add a season-low 6 points alongside 7 rebounds and 4 blocks before fouling out in 31 minutes, the Aggies found a way to earn a very good 75-84 win. They shot 58.8% from downtown and 53.3% overall to outpoint the 49ers who lost despite winning the rebound count 41-28 . However UC Davis was unable to capitalise on the win, running into a red-hot Jack Purchase and Hawaii.

While Moneke would  14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks, but he committed 9 turnovers as the Aggies fell to the Rainbow Warriors 72-77. Purchase lifted for Hawaii, coming off the bench to connect on 4-7 three-pointers as he raced to a game-high 21 points with 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in 25 minutes. With the game on the line, Purchase coolly made 4-4 from the free throw line to seal the win. Thanks to the win, Hawaii (4-1) maintained their grip on 1st place in the Big West standings, with UC Davis (3-2) falling to 5th in what is shaping to be a close competition.

Sophomore Deng Adel and Louisville have gone about putting together a 4 game winning streak in the ACC, increasing speculation that Adel will not return for his senior year and instead turn to the NBA Draft. Against #23 Florida State, Adel delivered a team-high 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists to help guide the Cardinals to a 73-69 win and snapping the Seminole’s 28-game winning streak at home in the process. Virginia Tech then felt the full force of Adel who was unstoppable in an 86-94 win. The 6’7 wing gathered a new career-high 27 points on an impressive 10-15 from the field and 4-6 from long-range.  Importantly he scored most of his haul when they mattered the most, while also making critical defensive plays at the other end to ensure the Cardinals prevailed. He also pulled down 11 rebounds, while also chipping in 3 assists and 1 block.

In a double-overtime thriller against Notre Dame, Adel added 14 points and 6 rebounds. Louisville’s size and experience got them over the line for an important 82-78 win. A high-scoring second half against Boston College saw the Cardinals make it 4 wins in a row. Adel was again in great form, this time gathering a team-best 18 points on 6-10 shooting (2-3 3PT) with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. It was Adel’s 3rd double-double of the season, and lifted his season averages to a team-best 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as the Cardinals improved to 5-1 in conference play and moved up to 2nd place in the standings.

For the first time since Cameron Bairstow and Hugh Greenwood, New Mexico have uncovered another Australian who looks set to star for the Lobos over the next 4 years. 6’5 freshman guard Makuach Maluach has been making the most of his opportunities to not only cement himself in the rotation, but as the team’s 6th man off the bench. Across his past 5 games, Maluach has scored in double figures and averaged an impressive 17.4 points and helped deliver 4 wins. After adding 15 points on 6-9 shooting in am 80-57 win over San Jose State, he would then go on to register 17 points after being elevated to the starting line-up in a win against Wyoming (75-66). He made it a 3rd straight career-high scoring performance in a tough 80-89 loss to Fresno State before compiling 19 points before fouling out in 19 minutes as the Lobos bounced back with a win against UNLV (85-81). He capped off a stellar 5-game run by adding 15 points as New Mexico took care of San Diego State 75-79.

Maluach joins a number of other Aussie freshman who have made waves in college hoops this season. Mount St Mary’s Jonah Antonio leads the way in averaging an impressive 11.9 points and 4 rebounds per game. In his most recent outing, he piled on 17 points (5-12 3PT) with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the Mountaineers’ heart-breaking 72-73 loss to Fairleigh Dickinson.

TCU’s Kouat Noi has also been in great form in posting 9.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. The 6’7 forward tallied 16 points in 15 minutes as the Horned Frogs 96-73 win against Iowa State. He then added 13 points including 3-5 from downtown in 15 minutes before being ejected after being charged with a flagrant foul with just over 10 minutes left. However TCU went on to upset #7 West Virginia 73-82, earning their first home win over a ranked opponent in 4 years. It was a big win, as the Horned Frogs had lost 5 of their first 7 Big 12 games by a combined 16 points.

And lastly, freshman guard Jacob Rigoni has made a positive impression with Quinnipiac too. In his latest outing, he reeled in 15 points on 5-8 shooting, including 3 three-pointers, as the Bobcats overcame Siena 69-76. The South Australian has quietly been building an impressive resume in cementing his place in the starting five, averaging 8.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.

Damian Arsenis

Written by

A patriotic and passionate follower of all things #AussieHoops. With a Master of Marketing, I am a Life Member of the Warrandyte Basketball Association, Level 2 qualified coach and referee, podcaster, and proud father of three girls.

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