NCAA Spotlight on the Aussie Men: Drmic and the Broncos remain undefeated (4-Dec-13)

Damian Arsenis takes a quick look back over the past week in NCAA Division I hoops action and calls out all the highs and lows of the Aussies in action.

Just briefly...

This week it was tough in separating some of the standout performances for my weekly awards, but I still gave it a good crack in any case! So let's get stuck into it, starting with a team from the Mountain West, however just not one that you may have been expecting...

Wyoming recorded 2 solid wins over the past week, with starting guard Nathan Sobey playing his part to near perfection. He first recorded 11 points on 4/7 shooting to go with 2 rebounds and 1 assist as the Cowboys accounted for Montana State 79-54. They then carried that form over in overcoming Black Hills State 79-65. Sobey was once again in the thick of the action, this time scoring 12 points on and even better 5/7 shooting alongside 3 rebounds and 2 assists as Wyoming improved to 6-2 on the season. Sobey is averaging a solid 7.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game to date, fulfilling his supporting role as a starter very well in his senior year after graduating from being the 6th man last season.

Eastern Washington continued their rise from the Big Sky Conference in accounting for Seattle 82-75 and improving to 5-2. Swingman Venky Jois played a leading role for the Eagles with a double-double consisting of 19 points and 10 rebounds. He also racked up 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks, and now averages 15.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. His ability to do what is needed for the team, whether that is scoring, rebounding or distributing the ball, has proven to be a great success this season. The Eagles next take on the undefeated Saint Mary’s and will need Jois at his best to be able to overcome a confident Gael's outfit.

Majok in action - Courtesy Ball State Athletics

Ball State had a tough week in dropping 2 straight games. First up they took on the undefeated Utah and went down 69-88, but not before Majok Majok did his best to try to cause an upset. The 6’9” senior forward racked up a 12 point and 13 rebound double-double with 2 assists in 33 minutes. They then backed up with a disappointing 55-79 loss to Cleveland State, a game in which Majok was double-teamed all night in taking just 5 shots. Majok however did his thing defensively in the paint, pulling down 11 rebounds with 1 block alongside 7 points. Majok has owned the paint so far this season, averaging almost a double-double of 11 rebounds and 9.5 points per game. In fact his 11 rebounds a contest has him inside the top 10 for rebounding in the country. The 6’9” athletic forward is definitely someone to keep a close eye on in his senior year.

Corey Maynard was again helping lead the way for Bryant in delivering another all-round display. He compiled 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists as the Bulldogs kept on winning, accounting for Brown 70-67. South Australian forward Claybrin McMath contributed 6 points and 3 rebounds and 1 assist in the good win. Neither player was then really required in a blowout 82-55 win over Salve Regina, as the Bulldogs played the bench and the rewards flowed for freshman Bosko Kostur. The 6’7” forward scored a new career-high 13 points on 5/7 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Freshman guard Declan Soukup also managed 6 points and 4 rebounds in his 23 minutes of on court exposure as the Bulldogs improved their record to 5-2 - something that would only have been a pipedream just 2 years ago.

Towering 7’1” senior center Jordan Vandenberg continued to make strides in his return from an ankle injury, scoring a new career-high 14 points on 7/9 shooting in North Carolina State’s 75-56 dismantling of Eastern Kentucky. Vandenberg also pulled down 8 rebounds and had 1 assist with 2 blocks in the big win. Since Vandenberg returned to action, the Wolfpack remain unbeaten and will be looking to utilise their size advantage with the Australian big man on court this season while keeping their fans entertained with his impressive dunking ability.

Lafayette recorded their long overdue first win of the season in overcoming Pennsylvania 79-76 as they finally found a way to win a close game. While forward Daniel Trist did not play, compatriot Nathaniel Musters was able to contribute 5 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in the breakthrough victory. After rediscovering the art of winning, the Leopards then made it 2 in a row after topping Wagner 77-65. With Trist back in action he contributed 12 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in a foul plagued 21 minutes, while Musters continued his solid form in putting together 2 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in 19 minutes. A 2-5 record looks better than 0-7 as the Leopard’s luck finally appears to have turned the corner.

Some other notable performances over the past week that deserve a mention, and there were a few:

  • Christian Salecich had his best outing for the season in notching a team and new career-high 16 points (14 in the second half) with 5 rebounds and 2 assists as SIU Edwardsville accounted for Texas-Pan American 55-49 to break a 4-game losing streak.

  • 6’10” forward Chris Patton had 15 points and 7 rebounds with 2 assists and 3 steals as UC-Riverside lost 69-73 to Loyola Marymount.

  • Two shining lights for Albany this season are Sam Rowley and Peter Hooley, and both contributed in their 66-55 win over NJIT. Rowley had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists, whilst Hooley gathered 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.

  • Indiana Faithfull was given an opportunity and scored 7 points with 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal in 18 minutes as Wofford defeated Johnson and Wales (NC).

  • Igor Nujic scored 12 points on 4/7 shooting to go with 4 rebounds and 2 blocks as UC-Davis lost to Idaho 76-80.

  • Saint Mary’s improved on their perfect start to the season, notching their 6th win in thrashing Murray State 89-64. Matt Hodgson had 6 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block in the big win.

  • Miami (OH) had a good 94-87 win over IPFW, with Australian freshman Joshua Oswald and Jaryd Eustace making an impact. Oswald had 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block, while Eustace racked up 7 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist.

Player of the week

It was not an easy selection this week, with a number of Australian's performing well across the country. Any one of 4 or 5 players could have been a worthy recipient, however there can only be one. In avoiding the fence-sitting this week, I went with the guy who was big down the stretch and is probably one of the most underrated players in the nation. That man is once again none other than Cameron Bairstow.

Bairstow in the post against Charleston Southern - Courtesy New Mexico Athletics

Reigning Mountain West champions New Mexico struggled in their game against San Diego after clinching third place at the Charleston Classic. In fact with a little over 8 minutes remaining in the game, the Lobos only had three scorers, and of course one of those was Australian power forward Bairstow. Whilst it was a Hugh Greenwood triple that changed all that, it proved to be a tough shooting night for the Lobos. However as many great teams do, they managed to still find a way to win (73-66), and Bairstow was right there leading the way.

Despite battling early foul trouble, it was in the second half where Bairstow would do his best work. When he checked back into the game his impact was immediate. With the Lobos trailing, he had a hand in 8 straight unanswered points, ensuring that the Lobos wrestled back the lead for good. In fact when the game was on the line Bairstow chimed in with 12 second half points along with 2 key blocks in the dying minutes to maintain the Lobos advantage. He was big-time; ending with an impressive 18 points on 6/7 shooting, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks in just 25 minutes, and once again demonstrated just how valuable he is to the Lobos and their chances this season.

While he struggled offensively, Greenwood played a great defensive role in finishing with 3 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in 36 minutes.

The Lobos now improve to 5-1 on the season, with Bairstow averaging a career-best 19 points per game on an impressive 61.5% shooting. They face a tough month ahead starting with in-state rivals New Mexico State, and you can be sure that Bairstow will be leaving nothing behind in his best endeavours to ensure another Lobos victory.

Team of the week

Sitting atop of the Mountain West standings with an unblemished 7-0 record, it was hard to go past Boise State who played three games over the past week for three more wins in their best start in school history . With the Broncos Australian contingent all contributing strongly, they were once again superbly led by the sharp-shooting Anthony Drmic.

Drmic in action vs Idaho - Courtesy of Wankun Sirichotiyakul via Boise State Athletics

In a 98-89 win over Idaho, Drmic helped power the Broncos to another win behind 15 second-half points as he racked up 21 for the game with 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Fellow started Igor Hadziomerovic generated 4 points, 1 rebound and 3 assists, whilst Nick Duncan chimed in with 3 points and 3 rebounds.

Next up the Broncos took on Portland State and came away with a 76-60 win. This time Drmic was well held, limited to 9 points on just 3/5 shooting. However he did manage 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals to contribute defensively. As the game wore on, Hadziomerovic’s confidence grew on the offensive end, finishing with 12 points alongside 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block in 29 minutes. Duncan added a rapid 9 points that equalled his career-high in just 12 minutes of action. The Bronco’s 76 points was their lowest score of the season after averaging a nation-leading 102 points per game.

"Iggy" taking it to the rack vs Idaho - Courtesy Wankun Sirichotiyakul via Boise State Athletics

Boise State then took on Utah in a game between two of the country’s remaining 21 undefeated teams, and once again came up trumps. The Broncos started strongly but were reeled in by the Utes, but managed to hold on for a 69-67. Drmic again played a great support role, compiling an efficient 14 points on 5/8 shooting to go with 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 steals. Duncan chipped in 6 points on 2/5 from beyond the arc with 2 rebounds and 2 steals, and Hadziomerovic had 4 points and 4 rebounds. Boise State who continues to lead the nation in scoring 93.57 points per game, next takes on NAIA school Carroll College, and could well enter the national top 25 rankings this time next week.Drmic has been having an outstanding season, and despite only scoring 9 points against Portland State, he is still averaging a team-leading 20.4 points per game. One of the areas he was hoping to improve on this season was his defence, and he has gone some way to do just that in averaging an impressive 2.71 steals per game that has him inside the top 20 in the nation.

Duncan shooting from range vs Utah - Coursty Boise State Athletics

Who was your Aussie player or team of the past week? Did anyone get missed that should have received a mention? Share your opinion by posting a reply.