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NCAA Men: Hunt, Vasiljevic and Healy lighting it up
A trio of Aussie men have been lighting up the box scores in US college basketball over the past week, with Jesse Hunt, Dejan Vasiljevic and Cameron Healy all compiling some big scoring games.
It was a massive week for senior forward Jesse Hunt in two straight overtime thrillers for Eastern Washington. The West Australian registered just his third career double-double in a heart-breaking 78-82 overtime loss to Green Bay. A lay-up to Green Bay in the dying moments of regulation forced the extra period, of which Jack Perry (6 points) started off in fine fashion with a big triple. However a 7-0 saw the Phoenix pull away for the win. Hunt compiled 15 points (7-13 FG) with 10 rebounds and 3 assists and 2 blocked shots in playing 39 minutes, but the best was yet to come.
Hunt was almost unstoppable in delivering a career-high 32 points on an efficient 12-16 shooting with 12 rebounds and 4 assists. Hunt's previous career high for points was 16, and he did it is style. He drained a buzzer-beating three-ball to send the game into extra time, and would score 8 of the Eagles 18 points in the overtime period to ensure a rewarding 87-80 win. Team-mate Perry was also prominent with 11 points as a starter.
While Hunt impressed, Dejan Vasiljevic is currently the most potent scorer representing Australia in college hoops this season. The 6'3 guard from Melbourne has been exceptional for Miami, scoring 16 or more across all three games in averaging an outstanding 17.7 points and 4 rebounds while shooting a blistering 52.2% from long distance. In fact, Vasiljevic has drained 4 three-pointers in each one of the Hurricane's three wins. He poured in a season-best 20 points with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in a close 78-70 victory against Bethune-Cookman - a team tipped to come first in the MEAC. Vasiljevic hit a clutch triple in the final minutes to ensure his side earned the win and maintain their unbeaten start, in their first real test of the season. In playing just 7 players, fellow Aussie Deng Gak saw 11 minutes in which he added 2 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Freshman guard Cameron Healy is hot on the heels of Vasiljevic with an impressive opening to the season for Albany, scoring in double figures in all 5 games. He registered his second 20 point outing in a tough 65-60 overtime loss to Holy Cross, with the Great Danes overhauling a 17 point second half deficit to force an extra period. However despite a new career-high of 22 points (8-17 FG) alongside 6 rebounds and 4 assists to almost drag his team to victory. Fellow Aussies Brent Hank and Adam Lulka combined for 13 points and 2 rebounds in the narrow loss. However Healy is now averaging a remarkable 15 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assist while shooting better than 44% from three-point territory in a great start to his college career, as the Great Danes once against boast a formidable Australian contingent.
Despite a 1-4 record to open the season for Hartford, George Blagojevic is off to the best start in his fourth and final year with the Hawks. The 6'8 forward from Geelong has scored in double digits in all but one game, and is averaging career-best numbers of 12.8 points and 8 rebounds and 1 block per game. He posted an 11 point and 13 rebound double-double in a 68-54 win over Quinnipiac. Fellow Aussie Jacob Rigoni had 4 points and 2 rebounds in Quinnipiac's loss. Blagojevic backed up with 14 points and 7 rebounds as the Hawks lost their second straight 65-72 against Utah Valley.
In Quinnipiac's next game, Rigoni was on fire, exploding for a career-high 23 points on 8-17 shooting including 4-7 from beyond the three-point arc. He also pulled down 9 rebounds as he guided the Bobcats to their first win of the season in a 69-63 over New Hampshire. Rigoni fired in 18 of his haul in the first half, and came up with a big three-point play down the stretch to cap off a memorable night for the sophomore guard.
Senior sharpshooting forward Jack Purchase has maintained his ability to score in double-digits across every game so far this season. most recently he added 11 points and 7 rebounds in Hawaii's 85-68 win against Northern Arizona. Freshman big man Mate Colina added 8 points (4-5 FG) and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench for the Rainbow Warriors who improved to 3-1 to open the season. Purchase is so far averaging a career-best 12 points across their four games while shooting almost 40% from beyond the arc.
New Division I program Cal Baptist which features three Australians, pushed Tulsa all the way before being pipped 82-79 down the stretch. Forward Bul Kuol impressed, draining 4-5 three-pointers en route to logging a career-best 16 points with 4 rebounds. Fellow Aussie Jordan Heading had a tough shooting night, going just 1-11 from beyond the arc for 7 points and 3 assists, while freshman big man Glenn Morison posted 4 points and 5 rebounds before fouling out in 15 minutes on court. The Lancers had to back up with a contest against #6 ranked Nevada and were outclassed 55-90. The Aussie trio combined for 20 points, with Heading's 12 and equal team high in the lop-sided result.
Duke remained unbeaten this week, with Australian captain Jack White continuing to impress in playing the glue-guy alongside their triumvirate of stars. The junior wing added 12 points (3-5 FG) with 8 rebounds in a big 90-64 win over San Diego State. The Blue Devils extended their winning streak to 5 and protected their #1 ranking courtesy of a much tougher 78-72 win against #8 ranked Auburn. While White was not one of the five Duke players to score in double figures, he chimed in with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 24 minutes to one again prove his worth.