NCAA Men: Aussie forwards stand tall

A host of Aussie forwards have dominated the college hoops scene this past week, including two Eagles, a Warhawk, a Gael, and one certain LSU Tiger.

Enjoying a career game was Felix Von Hofe in Eastern Washington's impressive 74-58 win against Denver. Von Hofe shot the lights out, draining 8 treys on his way to a new personal best 28 points with 6 rebounds and 1 block. The 6'5 sharpshooter piled on 16 points as par of a 19-7 run in the first half that put the Eagles ahead for good. Von Hofe was duly recognised by the Big Sky conference for his outstanding performance by being named Player of the Week.

Felix Von Hofe | Credit: Tim Cowie/ via Eastern Washington Athletics

While Von Hofe was hitting them from long-range, Venky Jois was doing his bit in the paint. Jois, who has been battling bronchitis much of the season, collected his second double-double of the season with 26 points (11/14 FG), a career-high 16 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 blocks. With his 3 blocks, Jois extended his school record to 206 and moved into fourth in the Big Sky, just 41 award from the league benchmark. He also ranks 14th in the nation for field goal percentage with a mark of 67.3%.

"Obviously, Felix was really special," expressed Eagles head coach Jim Hayford. "He's a great shooter and it's hard to take away his shot because he's so tall and his release point is so high. Venky is feeling better and better – he had 26 and 16, and I honestly expect that he can do that a lot. It's a question for him to get healthy to do that."

After missing three straight games due to a lower leg injury, Majok Deng returned with a bang in Louisiana-Monroe's 101-76 win against Central Baptist (NAIA). The Warhawks trailed 35-42 at half time before exploding for 66 points in the run home, with Deng a large factor in the outcome. The 6'10 power forward was on fire, connecting on 12/16 from the field including 2/3 from downtown on his way to a game and new career-high 33 points. He rounded out a dominant performance with a double-double, also adding 10 rebounds with 4 assists and 2 blocked shots.

Deng has been impressive to open the 2015/16 campaign, it was his second thirty point outburst, second double-double, and the sixth time he has posted 14 or more points this season from 7 games. He is now posting an average of 20.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, with his coach Keith Richard, singing his praises.

“Majok was out the last three games and was rusty in practice the last few days and a little bit fatigued," shared Richard. "Majok always plays hard, and even though he’s thin, he’s a real tough kid especially mentally. He was diving on the floor which is just part of who he is. Majok has a lot of pride too, in himself, our program and our team, and that’s the type of kid you want around.”

Deng would round of his week by being named Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA) Men’s Basketball Player of the Week.

The LSU and Ben Simmons show rolled Gardner-Webb 78-57 as the Tigers stepped up their defense. Simmons seemingly cruised to his eighth double-double of the season in gathering 11 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. Fellow Aussie big man Darcy Malone added 4 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist in coming off the bench for 7 minutes.

Simmons would then go close to securing his first career triple-double in LSU's 100-77 win against Oral Roberts. Shooting 10/14 from the field, Simmons recorded a game-high 24 points with 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 1 steal in a commanding performance. After cruising through the first half, Simmons poured in 20 of his 24 points in the run home despite having been rested at training during the week.

"Ben (Simmons), who has missed a few practices, has been banged up a little bit, he came out and played well today," advised head coach James Jones after the win.

Saint Mary's continued their great form with a 92-36 dismantling of Southern Utah. Dane Pineau was the epitome of efficiency for the Gael's, going 10/12 from the field for 20 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in just 19 minutes as the game time was shared around. Team mate Emmett Naar was just as effective, connecting on 6/7 shots including 4/5 from long-range on his way to 16 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals as the Gaels ran rings around the hapless Thunderbirds. Kyle Clark nailed all three of his shots for 6 points and 2 rebounds and 1 steal, while Jock Landale pulled down 8 boards with 3 points and an assists off the bench.

In opening West Coast Conference play, Naar continued his sizzling shooting from beyond the arc by nailing 3/4 on his way to 13 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 steal as the Gael's accounted for San Francisco 74-52. With his shooting performance, Naar increased his three-pint shooting percentage on the season to a remarkable 70%! Sophomore forward Pineau was one basket away from a double-double, adding 8 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocked shots. Pineau has really elevated his game this season and is flourishing with the additional court time. Landale chimed in with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist, while Jordan Hunter took his opportunity to post 2 points in 3 minutes.

“I know he’s a really good shooter,” outlined Gael's head coach Randy Bennett of Naar after the game “It’s kind of a funny-looking mechanical shot, but we stat the numbers every day – he’s as good of a shooter as we’ve ever had at shooting the ball. His shot selection is really good, but he’s more than that. He’s a clever player, getting other guys open shots; he’s a tougher cover than just a straight shooter.”

Senior guard Peter Hooley led Albany with 14 points, four rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals as the Great Danes overcame an 0-9 start to edge St. Francis 65-58. Hooley received great support from Mike Rowley who went close to a double-double, chiming in with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Albany maintained their unbeaten stand at home this season (5-0) and extended their home winning streak to 10.

Boise State took care of Bradley 90-70 at home to improve to 8-4 (6-0 at home). Nick Duncan (11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 2 blocks) and Anthony Drmic (9 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist) combined for 20 points as the Broncos easily dispatched the Braves. For Bradley, freshman Callum Barker started and gathered 3 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist.

Junior forward Matt Donlan was efficient in compiling 15 points (3/4 3PT) with 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal as Youngstown State accounted for Division III side Geneva 99-58. Donlan then had a chance to play against Michigan. While the end result was a lopsided 46-105 loss, Donlan managed to provide some resistance in compiling 6 points and 4 rebounds.

Tevin Jackson collated a new career-high 15 points (6/10 FG) with 3 rebounds and 3 assist in McNeese State's 77-72 win over LSU-Alexandria. The Junior transfer has worked his way into the Cowboys starting rotation and has now scored back-to-back career-high games, adding 13 points and 7 rebounds in a 60-105 loss to Indiana.

In posting back-to-back 13 points games, Xavier Cooks and Winthrop split their two games over the past week. Against Alabama, the Eagles fell short 60-72, with Cooks also delivering 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 blocks. However in their game versus Georgia Southern, Cooks would go on to gather a double-double that included 11 rebounds and 1 steal as Winthrop improved to 2-0 in Big South Conference play.