It was hard to look past Ben Simmons yet again this week, however he was not alone as a number of Australian men continued to impress in NCAA Division I basketball.
All eyes continued to follow freshman phenomenon Ben Simmons, and the 6'10 forward failed to disappoint in two straight LSU wins as the Tigers opened Southeastern Conference play. First, Simmons delivered a sublime 36 point and 14 rebound double-double in an excellent 90-82 victory over Vanderbilt. Simmons would scored 18 points in each half, making 10/15 of his shots and an impressive 16/19 from the charity stripe. He also further added 4 assists and 1 steal and 1 block for good measure, reminding everyone how good he is ahead of a clash with #9 ranked Kentucky - who boast another Aussie in Isaac Humphries.
LSU surprised Kentucky right from the start, with Simmons' team mates delivering in spades on what was the Tigers most complete game this season. While Simmons battled early foul trouble, he would still go on to record his 11th double-double of the season with 14 points, on a perfect 5/5 shooting and 4/6 from the line, and 10 rebounds. He also dished out 3 assists with 2 steals and block in another impressive display, but this time well supported by his team mates who lifted for the occasion.
"We have come together as a team," Simmons said. "Everyone got sick of what was happening and we laid it all out. We put our goals down and everyone has really stepped up and contributed."
Saint Mary's accounted for BYU 85-74, with Dane Pineau, Jock Landale and Emmett Naar playing key roles. For the 9th time this season, Pineau scored in double figures, adding 14 points (6/7 FG) with 3 rebounds and 1 block. not for the first time this season, Landale provided outstanding support off the bench, going a perfect 5/5 from the field and 4/4 from the line in contributing 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots. Naar once again played floor general, dishing out 6 dimes with 13 points but failing to land any of his three shots from beyond the arc.
The Gael's would then earn their 7th straight win and third to open West Coast Conference play thanks to a 79-46 demolition of San Diego. This time Pineau dominated, leading all scorers with 17 points (8/9 FG) with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in only 18 minutes as the Gael's ran their bench. Landale played 17 minutes and was just as effective, providing 11 points and 6 rebounds, while Naar chimed in with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals.
Despite Felix von Hofe and Venky Jois combining for 52 of Eastern Washington's 90 points, the Eagles lost to Northern Colorado by just 6 points (90-96) in their opening game of their Big Sky Conference schedule. The Bears shot the lights out in overcoming the Eagles, connecting on a sizzling hot 62 percent from the field, including 9/13 three-pointers. Von Hofe who has been experiencing a career-best season, logged his third straight game in registering 27 points or more. He added a game-high 27 points (9/18 FG) with 3 rebounds and 1 assist as he tried to drag the Eagles to a win. He worked well in tandem with Jois, who appears to have put his illness behind him, tallying an impressive 25 point (11/15 FG) and 10 rebound double-double with 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot. Fellow Aussie Jesse Hunt found himself in foul trouble early and was restricted to just 14 minutes (3 rebounds).
The Eagles lost their next outing on the road, going down to North Dakota 71-79. Von Hofe's shooting ability saw him once again lead all scorers, this time with 19 points, landing 5/10 from downtown with 6 rebounds. The sharpshooting forward has averaged 25.3 points per game across his last 4 games, and 17 points per game on the season. Despite the Eagles poor shooting from inside the arc in this game, Jois was the only exception, chiming in with 17 points (6/11 FG), 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block as his side slumped to 0-2 to open conference play.
Anthony Drmic sparked Boise State to an opening Mountain West Conference victory against Colorado State, 84-80. While his radar was slightly off, Drmic delivered 21 points (7/16 FG, 4/12 3PT) with 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in a solid win. When the game was still on the line, Drmic made both free throws with 12 seconds left to ice the game. Nick Duncan had little influence on the contest, fouling out in 15 minutes (3 rebounds).
Duncan bounced back strongly in the Bronco's convincing 76-61 win over Utah State. He landed 3/5 from long-range on his way to adding 15 points (6/10 FG) with 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 steals. The win came about despite a rare scoreless night for Drmic who pulled down 9 rebounds. It was the first time the senior guard had gone without scoring since his freshman season, however the Broncos still won and improved to 2-0 in conference play.
Imposing forward Majok Deng helped lift Louisiana Monroe to a 72-56 victory over Appalachian State and move to 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. Deng, who is averaging 19.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, gathered a game-high 18 points (7/11 FG) with 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in another commanding performance. He went on to be named Warhawk men's athlete of the month for his efforts.
Freshman forward George Blagojevic (5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) and senior guard Taylor Dyson (8 points) only managed 13 points between them in Hartford's difficult 53-88 capitulation to Yale, however they both stepped up in thrilling encounter with UMass Lowell. Dyson exploded, connecting on 9/14 three-pointers on his way to a new career high 27 points, while Blagojevic also excelled with 18 points (8/15 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. The Aussie connection were the lone Hawks scoring in double figures, and despite both landing key shots throughout the game, Hartford were overrun 76-80.
Still in the America East, Peter Hooley helped spark Albany to a 75-70 road win against Cornell. Hooley managed to compile a nice line of 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block despite struggling with his shot (2/10 FG, 7/8 FT). Mike Rowley, although limited to just 4 points, had a large influence through gathering 9 rebound, 5 assists and 1 steal. Rowley lifted his output in Albany's 73-59 win against UMBC, providing 12 points on 6/7 shooting with 8 rebounds and 1 steal. He was one of 4 players to score in double digits, while Hooley went close in adding 8 points (4/12 FG), 1 rebound and 2 assists. As defending champions, the Great Danes have now won 5 games in a row.
Matt Donlan has welcomed in the New Year with two big performances for Youngstown State who split their opening Horizon League games. In a 87-96 loss to Detroit, Donlan landed 6/10 treys on his way to 22 points with 6 rebounds and 2 assists. He then continued his good shooting in helping the Penguins to a narrow 100-99 win over Oakland. This time the junior forward would connect on 5/9 triples in generating 19 points with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. In a great season so far, Donlan has lifted his scoring average to 13.5 points per game while shooting the three-ball at an impressive 46.6%.
Despite Nebraska losing to Indiana 69-79 at home, Jack McVeigh delivered his best performance of his freshman season. The 6'7 forward came off the bench to make 6/8 shots, including 3/4 from long-range in an encouraging outing. He was also able to 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 24 quality minutes. Against #19 ranked Iowa, McVeigh would play 18 minutes for 5 points and 2 rebounds in a 66-77 loss, the Husker's third straight.