Kouat Noi has had a big opening to 2019 with TCU, dropping a massive career-high against Oklahoma, while Jordan Heading helped the Cal Baptist Lancers maintain their impressive Division I debut season.
As a nationally ranked team at #25, TCU entered the New Year knowing that they had two massive back-to-back tests scheduled against #7 Kansas and #23 Oklahoma, the fact that they almost came away with a win speaks volumes for their potential and the talent that is Kouat Noi.
Noi added 10 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 28 minutes off the bench in a 68-77 loss to the Jayhawks which snapped TCU's nine game winning streak. However it was the 6'7 sophomore from Newcastle who almost single-handedly carried the Horned Frogs to victory against the Sooners. It took a Kristian Doolittle runner with less than three seconds left to lift Oklahoma past TCU 76-74, delivering a heart-breaking loss for a very good TCU side who were led superbly by Noi.
Noi exploded, carrying a hot hand throughout to deliver a game, and new career-high, 30 points. The New South Welshman hit an astonishing 10-14 shots from the field, including 8 of TCU's 12 three-pointers for the game. Noi used his size and athleticism to shoot over the top of defenders, but despite his best efforts, TCU fell to 1-2 to open Big 12 conference play and thus dropped out of the Top 25 rankings this week.
Noi's 30 points was the biggest scoring output by a Horned Frog in the past 6 years, while his eight long-range makes was the best in the past 7 years and tied for second all time! He is now averaging 14.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 50.8% from the field and 42.1% from beyond the arc, and is a talent not to be missed.
The California Baptist Lancers, who this week gained a commitment from Australian junior representative Wani Swaka Lo Buluk, were spearheaded by the hot-hand of senior guard Jordan Heading who helped overturn a two-game losing streak. That second straight loss in conference play came at the hands of UMKC, where the Lancers allowed the Kangaroos to rack up 49 points in the second half before eventually falling 68-84. Despite the loss, Heading was brilliant, shooting an impressive 10-15 from the field in dropping a game-high 23 points with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Heading would go one better in their next outing against Chicago State to help guide the Lancers to their first ever Division I road victory.
Against the Cougars, Heading helped set the stage for a thrilling finish, with team-mate Ty Rowell draining a wide-open triple in the dying seconds to steal a 77-75 win. The South Australian matched his career-high with 26 points on 9-14 shooting that included 3-4 three-pointers. He also picked up 7 rebounds and 2 assists, as the Lancers improved to 2-2 in the Western Athletic Conference.
Mason Peatling and Jesse Hunt have been the drivers behind Eastern Washington in the New Year, and nothing changed when they upset Big Sky rivals Montana, with the Eagles scorching the net on their way to a 78-71 win. Despite fouling out in just 20 minutes, Peatling compiled a team-best 17 points on an efficient 6-8 shooting with 2 rebounds and 3 steals. Meanwhile Hunt was a vacuum on the boards, pulling down 15 rebounds with 8 points and 3 assists, and Jack Perry provided an offensive spark off the bench with 12 points on a perfect 4-4 from beyond the arc. The Eagles shot a red-hot 52.9% from beyond the arc and 77.8% from the free throw line en route to their second win in conference play.
After dropping their opening West Coast Conference game to San Francisco, Saint Mary's bounced back to win their next two games with Jordan Hunter and Tanner Krebs influencing their success. The Gaels shot an impressive 55% from the field and gave up just 7 turnovers while coming away with 10 steals as they took care of business against BYU 88-66. Krebs was the standout Aussie in the game, gathering 14 points (6-10 FG) alongside 7 rebounds in 25 minutes. Saint Mary's then improved to 2-1 in conference play courtesy of a 71-60 win against Loyola Marymount. The Gaels opened the game on a 12-0 run before opening up a 19 point half time lead. While LMU would fight back in the second half, the damage had been done. Krebs was again in the points in adding 16 that included 3-4 from beyond the arc with 3 rebounds, Hunter rebounded from a rare quiet game to collate a 10-point and 10-rebound double-double.
After enduring a rugged stretch that included losses to #18 North Carolina State and #13 Florida State in the extremely tough ACC, Miami rebounded to snap a three-game losing streak thanks to a 76-65 win against Wake Forest. Dejan Vasiljevic came off the bench to provide an offensive spark, draining 4 three-pointers before finishing with 14 points and 4 rebounds. The injury ravaged Hurricanes played with just a 7-man rotation, ending their worst ever start to league play.
Despite another two solid games by impressive freshman Cameron Healy, Albany has entered the New Year with two straight losses. Healy added combined well with fellow Australian freshman Adam Lulka to provide 29 of Albany's 51 points, but they could not generate enough alternative scoring options against Vermont to go down 51-80. Forward Lulka added a team-high 15 points with 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks, while Healy posted 14 points, 2 rebounds and 5 assists. Against Maine, a team that the Great Danes had beaten in their past five straight games and in 15 of their last 17 meetings, two late three-pointers made by the Black Bears that turned their fortunes around to win a close one 66-62. Healy tried to lift his young side to victory, adding 15 points all on three-pointers, but Albany again struggled to find consistent scoring to fall short by just 4 points and slip to 0-2 in the America East.
Senior forward George Blagojevic continued his great season by contributing 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals as Hartford accounted for UMBC in a nail-biter. While UMBC forced an extra period courtesy of two late free throws, Blegojevic sparked the Hawks with the first 6 points in overtime that set up a thrilling 66-64 win. It was Hartford second consecutive overtime victory, ensuring they opened America East play with a win.
Jack Purchase, another senior forward, played an important role in Hawaii collecting their fifth straight win in a 79-68 result against Cal State Fullerton on the road. Trailing by 3 at half time, the Rainbow Warriors came out firing in the second half to quickly extinguish any chance of a Titans win. Purchase delivered his second double-double of the season in adding 14 points (3-5 3PT), 11 rebounds and 3 assists to help his side to an opening win in the Big West.
Following an upset win against then #6 Nevada, New Mexico has since dropped their last two games, albeit not without effort from Makuach Maluach. The 6'7 wing from Sydney added 12 points in losses against UNLV (69-80) and Colorado State (76-91), taking his tally to four straight games in which he had scored in double figures and hit at least two three-pointers. After opening the Mountain West with two straight wins, the Lobos are now 2-2 and looking to turn around their fortunes when they next tackle San Diego State.
Riding a blistering first half performance that saw Noah Thomas pour in 13 of his career-high 24 points, Drake would go on to hold off Southern Illinois 82-70. Thomas connected on 3 three-pointers as the Bulldogs shot 59% from the floor to take a 43-22 lead into the main break which ultimately set up victory. The sophomore would finish with 4 triples as part of his game-high haul, alongside 4 assists in an eye-catching performance.
Sophomore guard Jamie Ahale came off the bench and drained 4-5 triples as he helped Illinois-Chicago tie a school record for 17 made three-pointers as they rolled to a 73-56 win against Cleveland State. Ahale was on fire, collecting a career-high 12 points with 3 rebounds in 17 minutes as he continues to push for more court time and a larger role.
It seems like Maker's are starring all across the world, with Thon Maker's cousin Chier Maker making an impression with Idaho State. The 6'7 junior forward has scored in double figures across his last three games, including 12 in the Bengals' narrow 72-70 win against Sacramento State. Team-mate Brandon Boyd made the game-winning lay-up with two seconds left to secure victory. Maker also added 8 rebounds in his 29 minutes as a starter and demonstrated his versatility by knocking down 2-4 three-pointers and going a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line as Idaho State improved to 3-2 in the Big Sky.
The number 1 team in the country boasts one of the best glue-guys in college basketball with their captain Jack White, but it could not prevent the injury-hit Duke Blue Devils from succumbing to Syracuse in an overtime heart-breaker 91-95. Duke were missing stars Cameron Reddish and Tre Jones, but were right in the contest until the end. The Orange packed the key with their zone and dared the Blue Devils to win it from beyond the arc, with Duke attempting a program record 43 three-pointers but making only nine. Jack White was one of the chief offenders from beyond the arc, going a barren 0-10 from distance, ending the game with 6 rebounds and 5 assists before fouling out late. The loss was the Blue Devils' first at home as a #1 team to an opponent other than North Carolina, but despite the set-back, Duke is the must-watch team this season with their host of NBA-bound talent surrounding White.
Unlike Duke, #4 ranked Virginia continued on their winning ways in picking up a fifteenth straight win to be one of a very select few to maintain an unbeaten start to the 2018/19 season. The Cavaliers have rolled to a 3-0 start to ACC play, a run that has included the scalp of #9 Florida State. While 6'7 freshman guard Kody Stattmann continues to try to work his way into the main rotation, he has been receiving spot minutes in each game. His best outing so far came against Morgan State where he exploded for 9 points in 12 minutes. As he awaits his opportunity, the Cavaliers remain one of the hottest teams in college basketball.