Once again it was the Aussie big men doing most of the damage in NCAA Division I hoops this past week, with Ben Simmons and Gael's duo Dane Pineau and Jock Landale leading the way.
LSU continues to find it difficult to win despite the on court exploits of star forward Ben Simmons.
In a 71-77 loss to Wake Forest, Simmons was able to accumulate a game-high 21 points (5/8 FG, 11/16 FT) with 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. It was Simmons' 9th double-double from 12 games, and 7th time he has scored 21 points or more this season. However despite the outstanding play of Simmons, many argue that he remains underutilised, with the ball not finding its way into his hands consistently enough on offense or that Simmons just is not looking for his own shot enough. One thing is for sure, Simmons is the best player on his team, and right now he is not getting enough support as his team slumped to a 7-5 overall record. Simmons has been good for 19.3 points, 13 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game, cementing his place as the best freshman in college hoops this season.
Saint Mary's continued on their winning ways as they improved to 2-0 (11-1 overall) to open West Coast Conference play. The Gaels first dismantled Santa Clara 81-59, largely thanks to Aussie big men Dane Pineau and Jock Landale. Pineau was outstanding yet again, delivering a perfect shooting performance on his way to a 14 point (7/7 FG) and 10 rebound double-double with 3 assists and 3 blocked shots. He received great backup from Landale who came off the bench to add 8 points (5/8 FG) and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes as Saint Mary's dominated in the paint. The sizzling hot three-point shooting from Emmett Naar was cooled off in this contest, with the point guard connecting on just 1/6 from long-range as he compiled 9 points, 8 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal in an impressive all-round performance.
Their next victim was Utah Valley who also proved no match for the Gaels who rode a 33-17 first half performance to earn a convincing 65-50 victory. Pineau gathered his second straight double-double and third of the season in collecting 10 points (4/9 FG), 15 rebounds (tied career-high), 1 steal and 1 block. Again, Landale impressed off the bench in limited time, providing 7 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 rejections in only 12 minutes. As he has been all season, Naar was again very good, this time adding 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal, while Kyle Clark played 26 minutes off the bench for 5 points, 4 rebounds and 1 blocked shot.
Following two massive double-doubles a week earlier, Majok Deng's scoring output was slowed somewhat in Louisiana-Monroe's 64-75 loss to Hampton. Deng was still very good however, gathering a team-best 16 points (7/13 FG) with 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Despite the loss, Deng still averages 20 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in an outstanding season to date.
Albany accounted for Niagara 65-56 with Peter Hooley chiming in for 8 points and 3 rebounds despite a tough shooting night (2/10 FG, 0/5 3PT). Mike Rowley was also relatively quiet, adding just 2 points and 3 rebounds in the win. Like any great player, Hooley bounced back in the very next time to deliver a game-high 19 points. This time he was on target, connecting on 6/8 from the field (1/1 3PT) to go with 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. Rowley chimed in with 4 points and 3 rebounds as Albany defeated St Francis (BKN) 71-66.
In a 116-84 demolition of NAIA school Rio Grande, Xavier Cooks posted a season-high 24 points (1/17 FG) with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Winthrop has been in great form, winning all 6 of their home games and are now sitting atop the Big South table with a 2-0 record to open conference play. Cooks has been just as good, averaging 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Liam Thomas - Courtesy Nicholls State University Athletics
Although he experienced two losses this past week, Liam Thomas was able to lift his output for Nicholls State in trying to help his team get over the line. In a 74-83 loss to Canisius, Thomas collected a season-high 16 points (7/10 FG) with 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. The 7'1 center would back up with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in a 49-76 loss to a very impressive Houston outfit.
Despite a big 64-100 loss to USC, Lafayette's Nathaniel Musters was able to take his opportunity to shine by contributing 8 points (4/5 FG) with 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 blocked shot in 20 minutes. With the departure of Dan Trist from last season, the Leopards have struggled so far and only boast 3 wins (8 losses) on their resume to date. The output of 6'10 forward Musters, who has received little opportunity, is an encouraging sign.
In a good sign for Jack McVeigh, he came off the bench to deliver 9 points (2/3 FG, 4/4 FT) with 3 rebounds and 2 assists in Nebraska's 81-50 thrashing of Prairie View A&M. After receiving very few opportunities, it is encouraging to see him grasp this chance to help work his way into the main rotation.