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NCAA Men: Aussies open the season with a bang!
The Australian men opened the 2016/17 NCAA Division I season with a bang, with Saint Mary's center Jock Landale leading a host of his countrymen who delivered big performances across the opening weekend.
In the biggest performance by any Aussie to open the season, Saint Mary's 6'10 center Jock Landale exploded for a new career high of 33 points with 9 rebounds in a 81-63 win against Nevada. The #17 ranked Gaels were far too big and talented, with Landale shooting a sizzling 15/20 from the field while Emmett Naar chimed in with 6 points and 8 assists and Kyle Clark compiled 10 points. Forward Dane Pineau added 6 points (3/3 FG) and 6 rebounds in just 12 minutes, while freshman Tanner Krebs went scoreless with 3 rebounds in 17 minutes.
Eastern Washington entered life without Venky Jois, and it was fellow Aussie Felix Von Hofe who stepped up to a new level in his place. Von Hofe was outstanding, connecting on 7/11 from beyond the arc on his way to delivering a game-high 21 points in the Eagles 70-47 victory against Division III opponent Linfield College. He would also add 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks, while compatriot Jesse Hunt added 8 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Geremy McKay and Michael Wearne both saw some action in the Eagles' opening win.
With the departure of Ben Simmons to the NBA, another Australian has quickly filled the void left behind at LSU. 6'10 Junior College transfer Duop Reath debuted in style, compiling an impressive game-highs of 23 point (9/13 FG), 14 rebounds and 3 blocked shots as LSU accounted for Wofford 91-69. Fellow Australian and first year player Kieran Hayward also made his debut, playing 15 minutes for 3 points and 2 rebounds.
Versatile forward Xavier Cooks started his season off in style by guiding Winthrop to a 66-47 win against Ferrum College. Cooks went 8/12 from the field in finishing with game-high 21 points alongside 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in a commanding performance against the Division III Panthers. With their next 3 games on the road, the Eagles will be very happy to take the solid win to kick-start their season where they are favoured to win the Big South title this season.
Sharpshooting swingman Matt Donlan drained 6 three-pointers on his way to compiling 20 points in Youngstown State's come from behind 90-82 victory against Akron. Donlan continued where he left off last season, going 6/11 from beyond the arc while also adding 4 rebounds in an encouraging start to the season for the Penguins.
After being required to sit out last season, Jo Lual-Acuil Jr added 12 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks in Baylor's 76-61 opening win against Oral Roberts. While anchoring the defense at one end, the 7'0 forward landed 2/3 treys at the other end to demonstrate his versatility and high ceiling. The Bears next take on #5 ranked Oregon in what will likely prove a sterner test for the Big 12 side.
Jack Purchase came up big down the stretch to ensure the Rainbow Warriors won their first game of the season, a come-from-behind 74-68 result against Texas State. After trailing by 12 points at the main break, Purchase scored 7 of his 15 points late, including 4 free throws in the dying moments to seal the win. He would add 4 assists and 3 rebounds, while shooting 3/6 from beyond the arc in a great outing.
#13 ranked Louisville started on a winning note by accounting for a 78-47 win against Evansville. After missing most of last season due to injury, senior center Mangok Mathiang added 9 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in the Cardinals opening game. In the big win, Deng Adel started alongside Mathiang and contributed 6 points and 5 rebounds.
Junior forward Chima Moneke had a good game for UC Davis in their 63-58 win against Santa Clara. The 6'6 athlete went 6/12 from the field for 15 points and 6 rebounds which followed an 8 point and 14 rebound effort in a 64-78 loss to Tennessee State. For Santa Clara, Kai Healy added 3 points in 16 minutes. Moneke would back up with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in UC Davis' 89-76 win Against northern Arizona.
Nebraska waited until Sunday (US time) to play their season opener, blowing away Sacramento State in the second half to earn an 83-61 victory. While Jack McVeigh impressed in connecting on 3/5 from long-range for 15 points and 7 rebounds, Kiwi Tai Webster stood out in delivering 20 point and 5 rebounds in the rusty win. Webster piled on 18 of his scoring haul in the second half to ensure the Huskers ran away with the win.
Freshman forward Jack White made his debut with #1 ranked Duke in their impressive 94-49 dismantling of Marist. White would connect on 5/6 free throws to finish with 5 points and 2 rebounds in 12 minutes. The Blue Devils then backed up to account for Grand Canyon 61-96 in a contest featuring Australians on both sides. For the Lopes, Gerard Martin started and was able to compile 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in a solid outing. White got in on the action with 3 points and 1 rebound in just 4 minutes this time around.
Kentucky who is ranked #2 behind Duke got their season off to the right start with a tougher than expected 87-64 win against Stephen F Austin. Second year center Isaac Humphries came off the bench and made an impact in 19 minutes, scoring 9 points (4/8 FG) to go with 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in an encouraging performance.
Humphries would back up his opening game with a further 6 points (3/4 FG) and 4 rebounds in just 7 minutes as the Wildcats dispatched Canisius 93-69.
#10 ranked Arizona needed a buzzer-beater game-winner to overcome #12 Michigan State 65-63 in the Armed Forces Classic. Forward Keanu Pinder made his Division I debut, playing 17 minutes for 2 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals in a performance that had many raving about his defensive prowess and impact on the game.
Miami routed Western Carolina 92-43, steamrolled their way to the win after an 18-3 run to open the game below it open early. Explosive freshman Dejan Vasiljevic used his green light to shoot to good effect, landing 3 treys to gather 11 points with 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 23 minutes on court.
Southern Methodist's Aussie freshman duo Harry Froling and Tom Wilson have demonstrated early that they will feature in the rotation throughout the season. In their 91-64 thumping of Eastern Michigan, Froling and Wilson both contributed 6 points and 3 assists each. Froling connecting on a triple with 4 rebounds and 2 steals in 17 minutes, while Wilson landed 2/6 treys in 13 minutes. It was an encouraging performance by both after they were relatively quiet in the Mustangs' opening 72-44 victory against Oral Roberts.
Gorjok Gak was cleared by the NCAA to suit up in Florida's opening game, a big 80-59 win over Florida Gulf State. While Gak did not register a stat in 3 minutes on court, it was great news for the athletic 6'11 forward with the 7'4 wingspan.