The Australian men have made their mark on the opening day of the 2015/16 NCAA Division I season, with a host of standout performances, including the impressive debut of Ben Simmons.
Ben Simmons piled on an 11 point and 13 rebound double-double with 5 assists and 2 blocked shots as he helped lead LSU to an 81-70 win over McNeese State. However while it was the future top 3 NBA Draft pick who was garnering most of the attention, a host of other Aussie men were doing their utmost best to steal the attention.
Arguably the performance of the opening day belonged to sophomore point guard Emmett Naar who elevated his game to new heights in Saint Mary’s 80-56 demolition of Division II side San Francisco State. Naar led the Aussie Gaels who combined for 51 of Saint Mary’s 80 points, exploding for a new career-high 27 points and shooting the lights out on the way. He connected on 10/14 shots including a scintillating 7/11 from beyond the arc in shooting the Gael’s to a convincing win.
Junior forward Dane Pineau also started and collected 8 points (4/5 FG) with 11 rebounds and 2 blocks, while fellow big man Jock Landale also chimed in with 8 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench. Making their debut were Kyle Clark and Jordan Hunter, with Clark playing 12 minutes for 6 points and 2 rebounds and Hunter with 2 points and 3 rebounds in 7 minutes. The early signs are encouraging for the new breed of Aussies stars at Saint Mary’s this season.
Another potential 2016 NBA Draft hopeful is Anthony Drmic, who starred in his return from injury as he enter his 5th and final year of college with Boise State. The 6’6 sharpshooter compiled 23 points (5/11 3PT) in 28 minutes, however the Broncos were not able to prevent Montana’s late game rally in a 72-74 loss. In connecting on 5 triples, Drmic moved into third all-time for three-pointers made in school history. For the Broncos, Nick Duncan also started and added 7 points and 4 rebounds, while for Montana, Fabijan Krslovic started and provided 4 points and 6 rebounds.
Eastern Washington took on Mississippi State in a first up challenge and despite managing to open up a 10 point lead early in the second half, were overpowered 88-106. While senior forward Venky Jois was solid in providing 12 points and 7 rebounds, it was the shooting display of Felix von Hofe that stole the show. The junior swingman connected on 5/10 from downtown on his way to an equal team-high 21 points in solidifying his position in the starting five. Fellow Aussie Jesse Hunt made his collegiate debut and managed to score 2 points with 1 assist and 1 steal in 8 minutes.
After his America East tournament heroics last season, Peter Hooley spearheaded Albany with 18 points however it was not enough to tame the might of Kentucky who prevailed 78-65. Hooley and the Great Danes struggled to connect on their open looks, letting the Wildcats off the hook and failing to make them pay. Mike Rowley added 2 points, 3 rebounds and 4 steals before fouling out in the loss. While for Kentucky, they only exposed 7’0 Aussie freshman centre Isaac Humphries for just 7 minutes of the game, in that time he added 4 points (4/4 FT) and 2 rebounds to prove he can add value to what is already a very talented team.
Senior guard Taylor Dyson and freshman forward George Blagojevic helped Hartford outlast Central Connecticut in a double-overtime victory, 92-83. Dyson’s leadership and experience shone through, stepping up to make the big plays in both extra periods to help earn the win, finishing with a team-high 17 points with 5 rebounds. Debutant Blagojevic added 15 points that included 2/3 from long-range alongside 4 rebounds and 2 assist in a very promising display.
Another debutant making a statement was Callum Barker who is playing for Bradley. Barker went agonisingly shy of a first outing double-double, collecting 14 points 95/8 FG) to go with 9 rebounds in 32 minutes as a starter. He played a key role down the stretch as Bradley staved off Ball State 54-53 for their opening win of the season.
Not to be outdone, senior big man Majok Deng was integral in Louisiana Monroe demolishing Division III program McMurray 88-43. Deng monstered his outmatched opponents, compiling 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks in only 22 minutes on court. The 45 point win was the largest season opening win in school history, and while the opposition may not have been of the same quality, don’t expect to see anything different from Deng this season.