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NCAA Men: Simmons delivers in different ways, Jois and Blagojevic impress
This past week Ben Simmons continued to deliver in many different ways, while Venky Jois and George Blagojevic also impressed.
Ben Simmons played two games for LSU this past week and played every minute, yet was unable to prevent two straight losses. Simmons put on a commanding 21 point and 20 rebound performance in a narrow 80-81 loss to Marquette in front of 51 NBA scouts at the Legends Classic. Making a reverse layup to put the Tigers up for the first time all game with 21 seconds left. Marquette answered, leaving the ball in Simmons hands of the final play in which he passed up the opportunity to take the potential game-winning shot. Simmons would also add 7 assists and 2 steals in the tough loss.
Another enthralling encounter would follow against North Carolina State, with Simmons showing everyone he can do just about everything. While he would only score 4 points (1/6 FG) he would still record a double-double comprising of 14 rebounds and 10 assists with 3 steals and 3 blocks. While he missed a free throw that would have put LSU ahead in regulation, his inability to score from long-range has been noted as his opponents clogged the lane and sagged off him. LSU will now likely drop out of the top 25 rankings (#22) despite the amazing 16.4 points, 14.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per game Simmons has been delivering.
Freshman forward George Blagojevic has worked his way into the starting lineup for Hartford thanks to his solid output. He came off the bench to deliver a new career-best 18 points (2/3 3PT, 4/4 FT) alongside 4 rebounds and 1 blocked shot in the Hawks 77-73 win over Niagara. Fellow Aussie Taylor Dyson added 8 points and 3 rebounds in the good win.
While Hartford would lose their next game to North Florida 60-81, Blagojevic would do his best to keep his team in the game. He once again stepped up with 17 points (3/4 3PT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block in another fine all-round effort. Dyson added 6 points and 5 rebounds, yet Hartford now have a 2-3 record.
In their opening game of the Wooden Legacy tournament, Boise State handed UC Irvine their first loss of the season, largely thanks to a 21 point outburst from senior Anthony Drmic. The 6'6 swingman connected on 4/8 from downtown and added 4 rebounds and 3 assists in the impressive win, however he also had great support from Nick Duncan who made 4 triples (4/11 3PT) of his own to post 14 points 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
Anthony Drmic | Credit: Brian Angers Photos via Boise State University Media Relations
Next up was #3 ranked Michigan State, and despite a promising start, the Broncos were outplayed 67-77. Duncan continued his outstanding form, compiling a team-high 19 points (3/7 3PT) alongside 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 1 block. On the other hand, the Spartans smothered Drmic who was restricted to 9 points (6/6 FT) and 5 rebounds. He was outshone by Michigan State's Denzel Valentine who exploded for 32 points including 7 three-pointers. Boise State now have a 3-3 record with respectable losses to two sides ranked in the top 15 in the nation. Drmic is averaging 16.8 points per game while shooting 45.7% from beyond the arc, while Duncan has been good for 13.5 points and 4.2 rebounds and shooting 41% from downtown.
Eastern Washington were unable to overcome Seattle in a return bout, falling short 52-58 in a defensive struggle. The Eagles were within reach late in the game, only to for Seattle to close it out with a 9-0 run. Venky Jois was in the thick of the action as usual, delivering a team-best 14 points on 7/9 shooting with 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 second half blocked shots. Felix Von Hofe's hot shooting cooled off as he only had 3 points on 1/8 three-point attempts with 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
With Jesse Hunt earning his first start alongside Jois and Von Hofe, the Eagles immediately bounced back with a 70-63 win over Pacific in the Sacramento State Basketball Invitational. Jois came up with a massive dunk late in the game to ensure the Eagles stayed ahead for good. He finished with a game-high 16 points (7/12 FG) with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocked shots. His 2 blocks saw him move into 4th place in school history and within 50 of the Big Sky Conference all-time mark. Von Hofe also chimed in with 12 points and 4 rebounds as Eastern Washington improved to 3-1 with Von Hofe and Jois leading the team in scoring, both delivering 16 points or more per game (16.3 and 16).
After a quiet start to the season by his standards as he battled a niggling injury, Mangok Mathiang broke out for his first double-double of the season in Louisville's 57-77 win over Saint Louis in the Hoops Holiday Invitational. It was the Cardinals' 5th straight win, with Mathiang delivering career-highs of 17 points (6/8 FG) and 13 rebounds alongside 1 steal and 2 blocks on his way to being named MVP. The news was not so good for Deng Adel after spraining his medial cruciate ligament, forcing him to miss their last three games. Adel is expected to miss at least two weeks in a blow for the promising freshman who was in red-hot form entering the season.
After playing a support role in coming off the bench across , Josh Spiers exploded for a new career-high 24 points in helping Loyola Marymount to an 82-80 overtime win over Cal State Northridge. Spiers was on fire, connecting on 6/10 three-pointers and hit all 4 shots from the charity stripe to help propel the Lions to their thrilling win. Of their 9 points in extra time, Spiers delivered 5 to round out his career night. He would back up that outing with 10 points in a 73-60 win over Southeast Missouri State.