NCAA Men: Moneke magic caps big opening to the season

Chima Moneke | Credit: Wayne Tilcock, AggiePhoto.com.

The opening weekend of the 2017-18 NCAA Division I season had a distinct Australian flavour, as a host of men from down under starred across the country, led by a number of potential 2018 NBA Draft prospects.

Forward Chima Moneke and UC Davis hit the road to take on Northern Colorado to open the season. The senior from Canberra was nothing short of sensational, exploding for a new career-high 28 points as he dragged UC Davis to a 74-50 come from behind win.

Moneke went 10-21 from the field and was influential down the stretch as UC Davis went on a 13-0 run to close out the game. He drained a first career three-pointer and would also finish with 8 rebounds and 1 blocked short in an impressive display. Moneke is dynamic and versatile, and demonstrated why he was in our preseason All-Australian First Team, and a possible smokey for the 2018 NBA Draft.

Deng Adel opened the season in red-hot form for the #16 ranked Louisville, soaring to a game-high 20 points in a tougher than expected 72-61 win over George Mason. The 6’7 wing was in great form, shooting 9-17 from the field and gathering 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. The Cardinals overcame a poor shooting first half to connect on 70% from the field after the main break to grind out the win. Adel who is a preseason Top 10 Australian player, has ambitions for the NBA Draft in 2018 and if he can build on this performance, he is sure to attract plenty of attention.

Baylor opened the season in style thanks to a commanding 107-66 victory over Central Arkansas. Senior centre Jo Lual-Acuil Jr was one of the key drivers behind the big, adding 17 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting with 9 rebounds and 1 blocked shot in 28 minutes. Ranked 24 nationally, the Bears had 6 players score in double figures including all five starters. Baylor set two school records by shooting 71% on three-pointers (12-17) and 66.1% overall (39-59). Lual-Acuil Jr is ranked one of the Top 10 Aussies in Division I basketball this season, and is rated the second best centre behind Saint Mary’s pivot Jock Landale.

Lual-Acuil Jr backed up with 4 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 21 minutes as the Bears trounced Texas A&M-CC 70-46 to remain unbeaten.

Landale played an important role in #22 ranked Saint Mary’s season-opening 85-63 win against St Francis (PA). The Gael’s scoring capability was on show in the first half, racking up 46 points in quick time. The 6’11 Landale who is rated one of the top players in the country, shot just 6-8 from the field for 13 points with 8 rebounds and 2 assists. He had great support from fellow Aussie senior Emmett Naar who was dishing dimes. He handed out a career-best 12 assists alongside 8 points (4-5 FG) and 4 rebounds in a dominant display from the point guard.  Tanner Krebs added 8 points off the bench, while Jordan Hunter did the same with 6 points.

Landale and Emmett stepped it up to another level as the Gaels finished strongly over New Mexico State. Landale delivered his first double double of the season, amassing 20 points (8-13 FG), 10 rebounds and 4 assists in a commanding performance which saw the Gaels run their offence through the centre. Naar was also in scintillating form, firing in a game-high 22 points on 10-16 shooting alongside 3 rebounds and 5 assists. The Gaels have one of the most potent offenses in colege basketball, and it was on show against the Aggies as they scored more than 40 points in each half, and better than 50% from beyond the arc, and 55% within it.

It was a tough opening to the season for Winthrop who fell to Southern Illinois 66-81. Freshman guard Kyle Zunic joined senior forward Xavier Cooks in the starting line-up and finished with 6 points in his collegiate debut. However it was Cooks who was the standout for Winthrop as the only player to score in double figures, adding 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists for the Eagles. However he also collected 7 turnovers and shot just 4-10 from the field, so has plenty of room for improvement as does his team. Tom Pupavac also made his debut, playing 2 minutes off the bench, but it was not the Eagles night and certainly not the way they would have expected to start.

In a contest featuring Australians on both rosters, TCU hosted Louisiana Monroe and were made to work hard for an 83-73 win, with the Warhawk’s Sam McDaniel lightning up. The 6’6 wing poured in a game-high 21 points on 7-14 shooting (3-7 3PT), also adding 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals in a complete performance to add weight to being rated a preseason Top 10 Aussie this season. For the winners, the highest rated Australian freshman this season– Kouat Noi– came off the bench to add a valuable 12 points (4-8 FG) with 8 rebounds in 22 minutes.

Noi followed up that performance with a further 10 points  and 3 rebounds in 17 minutes as TCU accounted for Tennessee Tech 100-63. He impressed yet again, and is sure to push hard for a starting berth for the Horned Frogs this season.

McDaniel backed up his big season-opener with a further team-leading 14 point game as the Warhawks lost to Southern Methodist 65-83. He would also contribute 5 rebounds to open the season in fine individual season form.

Sophomore sharpshooter Dejan Vasiljevic enjoyed his elevation to the starting line-up at Miami this season, helping the #12 ranked Hurricanes to a solid 89-55 win against Navy. ‘DJ’ drained 4-8 from downtown on his way to registering 16 points with 3 rebounds and 2 steals. His performance followed a season-opening 77-45 win against Gardner-Webb. In that game, the Australian went a cold 2-12 from the field for 6 points. Needless to say that he bounced back strongly on a team expected to perform well this season.

Hawaii won their first two games of the season at the Rainbow Classic, with victories against North Dakota (81-78) and Arkansas Pine Bluff (82-70) to advance to the final. Jack Purchase was able to compile 5 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists in the tight win over North Dakota. He followed that with an impressive 18 point effort as he continued to display his capabilities as a point-forward. While shooting 8-15 from the field, Purchase dished out 8 assists with 4 rebounds as he helped guided his side to the final against Troy.

The Rainbow Warriors would win a third straight outing, this time extinguishing Troy 72-67 in an overtime thriller to win the Rainbow Classic. Purchase would this time contribute 10 points (4-11 FG) with 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks in another solid outing as his team improved to 3-0.

In one of the most impressive collegiate debut’s, Isaac White put in a stunner for Stanford in their 78-62 victory over Cal Poly. Playing with poise and maturity beyond his years, White scorched the net from beyond the arc, connecting on a perfect 5-5 from long-range on his way to scoring 18 points in 26 minutes. The 6’1 guard was a standout, earning praise from coaches of both sides for his outstanding performance. Against Pacific in their second outing, he would go just 1-6 from downtown in adding 5 points as the Cardinal prevailed 89-80.

The New Mexico Lobos one again feature an Australian in their line-up, with freshman Makuach Maluach making an impressive debut. The 6’5 guard landed an impressive 7-7 from the field and 4-5 from the line to amass 18 points as the Lobos belted Norther New Mexico 147-76. He is the first Australian on the Lobos roster since Cameron Bairstow graduated and was drafted to the NBA by the Chicago Bulls.

Drake’s freshman guard Noah Thomas enjoyed a great collegiate debut, going 5-11 from the field for 13 points in the Bulldog’s 101-54 pasting of Division III side Coe College. Thomas landed three treys and a massive 6 steals in an eye-catching performance.

  • Kai Healy provided an offensive spark off the bench for Santa Clara in their 120-70 annihilation of Division III school La Verne. Healy would go 4-7 from the field for 9 points in 14 minutes.
  • 6’10 big man Duop Reath provided 11 points in just 17 minutes as LSU thrashed Alcorn State 99-59 in their opening game.
  • Junior forward Jesse Hunt delivered an 11 point and 10 rebound double double off the bench in Eastern Washington’s 82-61 opening win against Walla Walla. He also added 3 assists and 2 steals in an impressive all-round performance, while fellow Aussie Mason Peatling chipped in with 7 points and 7 rebounds.
  • Matt McCarthy added 8 points (3-4 FG) with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block as San Francisco lost to Long Beach State 71-83.
  • 6’11 sophomore Harry Froling sat out Marquette’s 80-59 opening win against Mount St Mary’s. Fellow Aussie freshman Jonah Antonio logged a massive 37 minutes for the Mountaineers and was able to gather 8 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in an encouraging display.
  • South Australian freshman Jacob Rigoni added 8 points and 5 rebounds as Quinnipiac won a thrilling 78-77 win over Dartmouth.
  • Fabijan Krslovic had 6 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks as Montana stunned Pittsburgh 83-75 in a great game.
  • Jack McVeigh came off the bench for 10 points (4-7 FG) with 6 rebounds in 12 minutes as Nebraska beat North Texas 86-67.
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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