NCAA Men: Aussie big men dominating with career highs
The Australian big men dominated across NCAA Division I hoops this past couple of weeks, with no less than four delivering career-high 30 point performances.
7'0 centre Jo Lual-Acuil Jr may have delivered the biggest performance of the season to date by any Australian in #18 ranked Baylor's 118-86 demolition of Savannah State in his last start. Lual-Acuil Jr was unstoppable at both ends, amassing new career-high's of 31 points (10-15 FG) and 20 rebounds to be the most dominant player on court - even adding 2 assists and 3 blocks for good measure. Even more important for the big man was the fact that his family had traveled from Sudan, including his parents, an aunt and niece, who had arrived to celebrate his graduation. He had not seen any of them for a little over 4 years and it obviously spurred him on for the biggest game of his career to date.
"It was great, having a career high in points and rebounds in front of my family, after not seeing them for a long time," said Lual-Acuil Jr after the game. "It just caps off the week, I couldn't have written it any better. I'm proud of it."
The performance rounded out a big couple of weeks for the Victorian, as it was his fifth straight game in scoring 13 or more points, including two double-doubles he recorded in wins against Randall (19 points and 16 rebounds) and Sam Houston State (15 points and 11 rebounds). He also added 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in their previous game, a 99-68 result against Texas Southern, and is carrying red-hot form ahead of conference play commencing within the next week. He is now averaging a career-best 15.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and is solidifying his chances of being drafted to the NBA in 2018.
Not to be outdone, Saint Mary's own senior centre in Jock Landale matched if not bettered Lual-Acuil Jr's big outing to continue his amazing season. The fellow Victorian exploded for new career high's in points and rebounds as the Gaels dispatched Sacramento State 54-70. Landale was a beast, delivering a game-high 37 points on 14-20 shooting alongside 18 rebounds in a clinical performance. He piled on 24 points on 11-14 shooting with 12 rebounds in the first half alone, placing the Gaels in total command on the contest early. Emmett Naar had 8 assists and Tanner Krebs 9 rebounds, but no other Gael scored in double figures such was Landale's dominance of the contest.
Landale would back up with a further two straight double-doubles as well in leading the Gaels to 9-2 record. His good form carried over against Seattle, compiling 20 points on an efficient 8-13 shooting with 10 rebounds and 3 assists, however this time he was outshone by Krebs. The Tasmanian drained 5-10 three-pointers on his way to logging a new career-high 23 points and in doing so seemingly cement his place in the starting five. Taking control of the offense was again Naar who dished out 12 assists with 7 points in the 73-97 win.
6'11 centre Landale would then back up to torment UC Irvine, posting 25 points (9-12 FT) with 10 rebounds and 4 assists to once against stamp himself as one of the best pivots, if not the best, in the nation. With 15 points, Naar stepped up to make some shots while handing out 7 dimes in the 66-73 victory. Since losing two consecutive games at the Wooden Legacy Tournament, the Gael's have not put a foot wrong, regrouping to once again show they will be a force again in the West Coast Conference behind their two star Australians.
Landale duly picked up WCC and Lute Olsen Player of the Week honours for his outstanding play, and is surely in a great position to complete one of the great seasons by and Australian in college basketball.
Also filing a 31 points over the past couple of weeks was 6'8 senior forward Xavier Cooks. The New South Welshman scored a point-per-minute on 11-24 shooting with 5 rebounds and 3 assists but he could not prevent a narrow 82-87 loss to Georgia. Freshman guard Kyle Zunic continued his emergence for the Eagles in contributing 8 points and 3 assists as a starter in playing 30 minutes. Cooks would be named Big South Player of the Week for his outstanding form and play. Winthrop would go on to win their fourth in their last five starts against Alabama State 88-80 despite Cooks logging his lowest score of the season, adding just 6 points and 6 rebounds. Zunic again was solid with 9 points, as the Eagles prepare for Big South Conference play.
Another Aussie broek out for a 30 point game recently, with LSU's Duop Reath coming up with a big performance. He 6'11 forward sparked the Tigers to a 97-84 win over UNC Wilmington, going 13-17 from the field on his way to gathering a new career-high 30 points with 5 rebounds. Reath's previous bst was 23 points, twice last season, so his latest output was a welcome special delivery! LSU have been rejuvenated this season, and so far have established a solid 6-3 overall record. If Reath can keep scoring in double figures, the Tigers may raise some eyebrows in the Southeastern Conference this season.
Chima Moneke has continued to power UC Davis to a solid 7-3 non-conference record, registering his seventh double-double of the season this past week. While the 6'6 forward added 13 points and 11 rebounds, San Francisco halted the Aggie's winning streak at five wins thanks to a 74-61 result in their favour. Fellow Australian Matt McCarthy came off the bench for the Dons to contribute 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in an impressive performance. The Aggie's loss followed solid wins against Pacific (71-67) and William Jessup (86-52). against Pacific, Moneke led the way with 20 points and 9 rebounds, while next up in the win against William Jessup, he piled on 16 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. From Canberra, Moneke has been good for 19.9 points and 11 rebounds per game, and has been one of the best and most consistent Australian performers so far this season.
Along with Landale who was ranked number one, Moneke was ranked number five in the top 5 mid-major players.
After dropping a tough game to Seton Hall, Louisville has bounced back to win their next three games behind the consistent play of Deng Adel. The sophomore wing has been very good so far this season, and was important in helping guide the Cardinals to wins over Indiana, Bryant and Memphis. Against the Hoosiers, Adel added 16 points on 4-8 triples to help pace his side to a 71-62 win. Bryant proved no match for Louisville, as the Cardinals romped to a 59-102 victory behind Adel's 17 points and 4 assists. He then managed 15 points and was one of four Cardinal players to score in double figures as they overcame the Tigers 81-72.
Miami have moved up to #6 in the national rankings and remain one of the few unbeaten teams remaining across the nation. Dejan Vasiljevic has been a key cog in their offense, and was on full display as the Hurricanes took care of business 80-52 against Princeton. Vasiljevic piled on 20 points including 5-7 treys as his side went an impressive 14-25 from beyond the arc to give Princeton little to no chance to compete. The Victorian backed up with 15 points and 5 rebounds in a 54-69 win over Boston University, and then chipped in 10 points in a close-than-expected 50-59 win over George Washington. In providing 11.2 points a game as a sophomore, Vasiljevic has locked down his starting role and will be looking to help the Hurricanes challenge for the ACC championship.
Miami is just one of four teams across Division I still without a loss, one of the other two also features Australians: TCU.
Harry Froling made his long-awaited debut with Marquette who were able to hold off Northern Illinois 70-79. The 6'11 Queenslander came off the bench to play 3 minutes and 2 rebounds and 1 blocked shot in that time. It will be interesting to see how Marquette utilise the talented big man after a third of the season has already been locked away.