NCAA Men: Lual-Acuil Jr blocks Cardinals run, Gaels remain undefeated

Australians continue to play a key role in a number of teams ranked in the Top 25 Associated Press rankings, with Baylor taking on Louisville for the title at the Battle4Atlantis, while Saint Mary's remains unbeaten.

Top 25 ranked sides Louisville (#14) and Baylor (#9) both competed at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahama's with the Cardinals and Bears facing off in a thrilling final. Many may argue that the Bears' road to the final was a tougher assignment, with wins against Virginia Commonwealth (71-63) and #12 ranked Michigan State (73-58). 6'10 big man Jo Lual-Acuil Jr came up big against the Spartans, going 6/7 from the field for 14 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block in a marquee win. Lual-Acuil Jr was dominant in the second half and was a key reason that the Bears were able to register a win and advance to the final against the Cardinals.

With three Australian's starting in the Battle 4 Atlantis final, it was the Cardinals that gained the early ascendancy. Louisville led by as many as 22 in the first half to send the Bears into the halftime break trailing for their third straight game. Once again Baylor would respond, erasing the deficit and stealing the win 66-63. Lual-Acuil Jr was crucial in patrolling the paint for Baylor, rejecting 6 shots with 7 points and 3 rebounds as the Bears prevailed. Adel and Mathiang would struggle in shooting a combined 1/2 from the field 4 points and 10 rebounds as the Cardinals dropped their first loss of the season.

Louisville would bounce back to account for #15 ranked Purdue 71-64. In a great team performance, the Cardinals got 11 points and 8 rebounds while Adel would provide 9 points and 5 rebounds. They would also go on to defeat Grand Canyon 79-70, with Adel adding 15 points and 3 rebounds as the Cardinals improved to 7-1.

Baylor followed their tournament win with two more wins against Sam Houston State (79-45) and #7 ranked Xavier (76-61) to remain undefeated and improve to 4-0 against nationally ranked opponents. Lual-Acuil Jr continued to be a beast in the paint, gathering 19 points, 17 rebounds and 10 blocks across both games. He is averaging an imposing 4.4 blocks per game which is second best in the country.

An 18-2 second-half run enabled Saint Mary's to break away from San Jose State to win 81-64. 6'11 center Jock Landale stood tall yet again, shooting 9/10 from the field and 6/7 on free throws to finish with a game-high 24 points with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocked shots. Fellow starter Emmett Naar was also just as efficient, missing just one shot for the game in compiling 16 points (5/6 FG, 4/4 FT) alongside 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Kyle Clark provided some spark off the bench with 8 points.

Landale continued his scoring spree by collecting bags of 20 points and 8 rebounds and 13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in the Gael's wins against UAB (76-63) and Stanford (66-51). Naar would deliver 12 points and 7 assists while Clark added 9 points off the bench against UAB. Against Stanford, Naar only had 5 points but racked up 7 rebounds and 8 assists, and this time Dane Pineau added 8 points on 4/4 shooting in a solid contribution as the Gaels remained undefeated and moved up to #12 in the national rankings. Landale is averaging an Australian-best 19.7 points and 9 rebounds per game, while Naar is dishing out 7.7 assists per outing, good enough for 5th best in the nation.

In a thrilling encounter, Eastern Washington needed double overtime to account for Seattle 80-76 to win the Legends Classic Sub-Regional championship. The Eagles hit 4 triples in the less than 2 minutes to force overtime. The Eagles would then hit another three-pointer with less than 4 seconds to go in the first extra period to ensure a further 5 minutes were required. Another triple in the dying moments ensured the Eagles won a thriller, with Felix Von Hofe contributing 17 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.

Playing with confidence, the Eagles took on Denver and again the game came right down to the wire. Von Hofe hit some big shots in the game to finish with a game-high 23 points including 6/12 from beyond the arc. Mason Peatling came up with some tough shots in regulation to help ensure an extra period as he added 6 points, with the Eagles prevailing 85-80 in overtime. For Denver, Australian Abiola Akintola saw 10 minutes for 2 points and 4 rebounds.

Von Hofe would maintain the momentum, adding 21 points on 8/12 shooting in the Eagles' 96-90 win against San Francisco, and then coming up big with 19 points and 7 rebounds in another double-overtime win against Seattle (93-88). Von Hofe hit a triple to forced the first extra period to help earn the Eagles their 5th straight win and third overtime victory of the season.

Xavier Cooks compiled a new career-high 30 points but could not prevent Winthrop losing to New Hampshire 60-65. Cooks was an efficient 12/15 from the field including 4/5 from long-range and alongside 8 rebounds. He followed that effort with two straight 14 point outings, including a low-scoring yet thrilling 58-57 overtime win against Furmanin which he also added 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Dayton proved too good for the Eagles in their convincing 83-67 result, a contest Cooks also chimed in with 4 rebounds before fouling out in 22 minutes.

Youngstown State have earned two straight wins behind the play of 6'7 sharpshooter Matt Donlan. In a 75-74 win against Robert Morris, Donlan connected on the game-winning 3-pointer with 18 seconds to play in the thrilling win. He would end with an equal game-high 21 points that included a sizzling 7/9 triples and 3 rebounds. He would follow that performance with 16 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in guiding the Penguins to a 87-72 win against Oberlin.

Jack Purchase has found his feet at Hawaii, delivering a new career-high 21 points in the Rainbow Warriors narrow 63-65 loss to Troy. The sharpshooting 6'8 forward connected on 6/11 from beyond the arc alongside 4 rebounds. Next game he added 11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in a 64-44 win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Fellow Aussie Matt Owies would gather a career-best 11 points on 4/9 shooting with 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in the win to highlight his potential.

Other notable performances:

  • Following a number of lean games, Jack McVeigh returned to his best in Nebraska's 73-61 win against South Dakota. He added 16 points (4/9 3PT) with 6 rebounds in the much-needed win to break a 3-game losing streak.

  • Promising forward Chima Moneke compiled a tidy double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds in UC Davis' 66-79 loss to Oakland. He has been averaging close to a double-double too, contributing 12.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

  • Duop Reath has been an integral cog in the revival of LSU this season. His run of 6 straight games scoring in double figures came to a halt in LSU's 84-65 win against Houston. His best outing of the week was a 16 point and 10 rebound double-double in the Tigers 66-60 win against Old Dominion. Reath has been good for 13.6 points and 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

  • Louisiana-Monroe's 6'6 junior transfer guard Sam McDaniel has been in good form for the Warhawks, scoring in double figures in the past 5 games. His best outing was a 17 point and 9 rebound performance in a 57-64 loss to Bryant.

  • Bosko Kostur gathered a season-high 16 points in Bryant's 90-91 loss to Brown. He went 5/7 from the field with 7 rebounds and 3 assists in a solid all-round performance.

  • Jamaal Robateau caught fire from downtown, landing 4/5 treys on his way to 17 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in Gardner-Webb's 86-68 win against VMI. The junior guard has worked his way into the starting lineup is is delivering 10.1 points per game.

  • Jack Lopez delivered a big scoring performance in Montana's narrow 81-86 loss to Ole Miss. Lopez was on-song from long-range, making 5/8 three-pointers as he compiled 17 points with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Fellow countryman Fabijan Krslovic also chipped in 7 points, 11 rebounds and 1 block but it was not enough to earn the Grizzlies their second win of the season.

  • Nicholls managed to hold of Bethune-Cookman 76-69, getting it done before defense and a solid performance from senior starting center Liam Thomas helping the cause. The 6'10 New South Welshman added 10 points on an efficient 5/6 shooting with 7 rebounds and a massive 7 blocks in 32 minutes. His 7 blocks fell just 1 shy of tying his own school record.

  • Harry Froling enjoyed his best game to date, shooting a perfect 5/5 from the field to register 11 points and 5 rebounds and 2 steals in Southern Methodist's 74-60 win against Delaware.

  • Another freshman forward in Tulsa's Will Magnay enjoyed a breakout game with 13 points (4/6 FG) with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 blocks in a 62-72 loss to Little Rock.