NCAA Spotlight on the Aussie Men: Bairstow is the best in the West (11-Feb-14)

Damian Arsenis checks back in with all the latest on the Aussie men playing Division I college hoops over the past week.

We are now almost half-way through February and well into the second half of conference play. The race for conference titles is now starting to heat up, while for some teams, they begin the long road to next season. Let's see where the Aussies are at as we take a look back over the past week.

Player of the Week

He is back as The Pick and Roll player of the week; Cameron Bairstow of the New Mexico Lobos!

Bairstow with the jam against the Aggies - Courtesy Jim Thomson / Albuquerque Journal

Bairstow has barely put a foot wrong all season to date, and while he only played one game since my last update (in which he was outstanding), he was also honoured by being named Mountain West Conference player of the week - the second time he has earned the accolade this season. So it was almost impossible to overlook the most improved player in the Mountain West, if not the entire NCAA this season for the player of the week award this time around.

Bairstow reminded everyone yet again why he should be considered the favourite to be named Mountain West player of the year in leading New Mexico to a 66-61 overtime victory against the visiting Wyoming Cowboys. The 6’9” power forward was yet again an unstoppable force in collecting a double-double. He gathered an imposing game-highs of 23 points and 11 rebounds alongside 1 assist and 1 blocked shot in 41 minutes. He hit a game-tying shot with 35 seconds left in regulation that would see the game enter overtime; a repeat of the Lobos first encounter with Wyoming earlier in the season.

Compatriot Hugh Greenwood provided an all-round supporting performance in compiling 8 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 39 minutes of action. For the Cowboys, 6’3” senior guard Nathan Sobey was rock solid in contributing 10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal as he also clocked up a mammoth 40 minutes on court.

Team of the Week

It was a tough call this week (as it is most weeks) but I struggled to overlook the win by the Hartford Hawks over the Albany Great Danes in a game boasting 7 Australian's combined.

Coming off a great win, Albany travelled to Hartford and it was a handful of Aussies that shone brightest for both sides. Behind the outstanding play of the Hawk's 6’4” sophomore guard Taylor Dyson and 6’2” junior guard Corban Wroe, they were able to defend their home court and eke out a 67-54 win.

Dyson hit 4/5 from long-range on his way to an equal team-high 14 points to go with 5 rebounds and 3 steals despite being limited to just 25 minutes due to foul trouble. Wroe was also just as effective, chipping in 11 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in an all-round performance lasting 31 minutes. Thanks to the win, Hartford broke a 3-game skid and improved to 5-5 in the America East and now trail Albany by just half a game.

For Albany, forward Sam Rowley tried to spark the Great Danes with a 14 point and 11 rebound double-double, his 5th of the season, while the normally prolific Peter Hooley was relatively quiet with just 8 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist.

Best of the Rest

Albany was able to dismantle Massachusetts Lovell 73-56 behind an outstanding shooting performance from 6’4” sophomore guard Hooley. Hooley was 6/10 from beyond the three-point arc as he scored a game-high 21 points. He also topped off his stellar outing with 5 rebounds and 3 assists in a blemish free 34 minutes. Junior forward Sam Rowley was also instrumental for the Great Danes, chiming in with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot in a commendable 30 minute support act. Not to be left out, senior forward Luke Devlin went close to a double-double with 7 points and 7 rebounds with 1 assist and 1 steal in 17 minutes of action off the bench.

After their loss to Hartford, the Great Danes now sport a 6-5 record and remain in 3rd place in the America East Conference. Hooley leads his team in scoring and assists with 14.5 points and 2.8 assists per game, while Sam Rowley right behind him with 11.5 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds per contest.

With 13 points including 3/5 on triples, Corey Maynard helped lead Bryant to a 79-68 road win over Central Connecticut State. Maynard was again at his all-round best, also chiming in with 7 rebounds and 5 assists in playing 38 minutes. Back at home, Maynard was again solid as a rock in helping the Bulldogs earn a 78-75 win over Mount St. Mary’s, their 3rd in a row. He again was able to contribute to the scoreboard with 16 points but also collected 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in 37 minutes. Bryant has now improved to an impressive 8-2 record in the Northeast Conference with Maynard contributing 13.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.

Senior Center Angus Brandt has been a consistent contributor for Oregon State this season and further demonstrated through his 13 point (6/11 FG), 6 rebound and 2 block effort in an overtime thriller against Arizona State. Despite a big block and a triple by Brandt to edge the Beavers ahead in the extra period, they were unable to hold off the home side as they eventually fell 82-86.

The overtime loss hurt even more considering Oregon State’s next match-up was against #2 Arizona on the road. Simply, the Beavers were no match for a superior opponent despite Brandt pouring in 14 points (5/7 FG) including a perfect 2/2 from beyond the arc while finishing with 4 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. The 6’10 Brandt is now averaging 12.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with the Beavers boasting a 5-6 record in the Pac-12 Conference.

Salecich scores on a drive against Eastern Kentucky - Courtesy SIUE Photo Services

It took overtime, but SIU Edwardsville was able to overcome Southeast Missouri 93-88 in a thriller. 6’3” senior guard Christian Salecich came off the bench and scored 14 points that including 4/9 from beyond the arc to also finish with 6 rebounds and 2 assists without recording a turnover in 38 minutes. The Cougars then picked up their 2nd straight win, their 6th in their last 8 games, in accounting for Tennessee Martin 84-78. Salecich was again in fine form, compiling an efficient 12 points (4/6 FG) including 3/4 from long-range to go with 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in just 21 minutes on court. Salecich has bumped his scoring up to 7 points with 2.5 assists per game as SIU Edwardsville now improve to 6-5 in the Ohio Valley East Conference in 2nd place.

In a powerful all-round display, 6’10” power forward Chris Patton collected an impressive double-double in going 6/9 from the field on his way to 12 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks in 30 minutes. Through his commanding performance, UC Riverside was able to account for Cal State Fullerton 72-69. Patton then backed up with 12 points on a sizzling 6/7 shooting with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 blocked shot in 29 minutes against Long Beach State. However this time, the Highlanders were on the wrong end of a 76-88 score line, and subsequently now boast a 3-6 record in the Big West. Patton is posting a team-leading 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

The Eastern Washington Eagles earned a much-needed 79-50 road win over Montana State. Venky Jois was again right in the thick of the action, compiling 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 32 minutes. Freshman sharp shooter Felix von Hofe came into the game late had nailed two straight three-pointers as he ended with a quick-fire 6 points in just 3 minutes to ice the win for the Eagles.

In backing up against Montana, the Eagles were not able to keep the momentum from their big win going, falling short 77-82 on the road. Jois was uncharacteristically quiet in contributing just 4 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 25 minutes. The Eagles are now 5-7 in the Big Sky Conference; with their star Aussie forward providing 12.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.

Ball State’s tough season continued as they fell to Buffalo 48-69. Towering senior forward Majok Majok compiled 8 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists in the loss. The Cardinal’s then lost their 5th in a row 73-80 to Toledo at home. Majok was gallant as he racked up his 8th double-double of the season in collecting 17 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block before fouling out in 34 minutes. Ball State is now a paltry 1-9 in the Mid-American Conference with their 6’10” Aussie averaging 11.2 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Despite playing just 11 minutes, 6’7” freshman forward Joshua Oswald scored an equal game-high 10 points to go with 5 rebounds but Miami (OH) lost to Northern Illinois 41-53 in a dour, low-scoring affair. Fellow freshman Jaryd Eustace chimed in with 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 18 minutes.

The RedHawk’s road trip did not get any better as they then dropped a 75-82 verdict to Ohio. Eustace continued his solid first year campaign by posting a new career-high 14 points on 4/8 triples to go with 4 rebounds and 2 steals in 21 minutes. After winning three games in a row, the RedHawks have now lost three of their last 4 in the Mid-American Conference and are now 3 games behind Akron in the East standings.

After a win-less start to Patriot League play, Lafayette managed to record their 2nd straight victory as they accounted for Bucknell 66-58 in an upset on the road. 6’9” junior forward Dan Trist provided scoring punch off the bench, contributing 14 points on 6/10 shooting to go with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block in 27 minutes. Their run however was short-lived, as they hit a road block in Boston and went down 54-88. Trist was well held to just 6 points but still managed 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 23 minutes on court. His Leopards are now just 2-10 in the Patriot League whilst he averages 13.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a contest.

Drmic soars to the basket versus South Carolina at the Diamond Head Classic - Courtesy John Kelly via Boise State Athletics

Boise State hosted the red-hot #5 ranked San Diego State and had victory snatched away from them thanks to a game-winning triple made by the Aztecs with just on 4 seconds left in the game resulting in a 65-67 Broncos loss. Sophomore swingman Anthony Drmic had an off shooting night but still managed 13 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Travelling to Utah State, the Broncos were desperate for a win but instead lost their 3rd in a row 70-76 despite leading for most of the first half. Drmic rediscovered his stroke in posting a game-high 26 points on 9/15 shooting (5/10 3PT) to go with 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals in 31 minutes. Boise State is now 5-6 in the Mountain West, while Drmic still leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Boise State will be hoing for a better outcome ahead of their clash with New Mexico this week; a battle featuring 5 Australians that could potentially take to the court.

Has Damian left out any performance of note? Do you agree with his selections? Please share a comment!