NCAA Spotlight on the Aussie Men: Beast Mode Bairstow (16-Feb-14)

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

The build up over the past week may have centered around NBA All Star weekend, however there was plenty of college basketball action featuring a number of Australian's who put on show-stopping performances of their own.

Player of the Week

There were a number of players who stepped up with big performances since my last update, including Cameron Bairstow, Peter Hooley and Dan Trist. To be honest, it was tough to separate them.

Trist led Lafayette to 2 straight wins including a first career double-double in what has been a barren season, Hooley hit 21 points in back-to-back split games, and Bairstow has 20 points and a 24 point and 11 rebound double-double in a loss and a win. I leaned towards the player with performances against arguably the stronger opposition, and that player is Bairstow who has been in consistent 'best mode' as he continues to enjoy one of the best individual campaigns any Australian has ever enjoyed in Division 1 hoops. Let's take a look at his two games over the last week...

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

With Wyoming’s upset of #5 San Diego State, the door opened for New Mexico to take over 1st place in the Mountain West with a potential win over Boise State; a game featuring 5 Australians combined. The Lobos were able to establish a 12-point lead in the second half largely due to the impressive play of their imposing power forward Bairstow who would finish the game with 20 points (6/9 FG), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 blocks. However Boise State was able to rally and eventually came from behind to steal a 71-70 win as a Hugh Greenwood open look at the buzzer went long.

Swingman Anthony Drmic was outstanding for Boise State in helping them first stay in the game, and then earning a victory. He scored a team-high 18 points to go with 5 rebounds and 1 assist in a foul plagued 29 minutes. Greenwood too found himself in foul trouble in playing just 24 minutes for 4 points and 3 rebounds as he did his best to help contain the Broncos dangerous perimeter shooters. For the Broncos, Nick Duncan chimed in with 6 points (2/4 3PT) and 1 steal in 18 minutes, and Igor Hadziomerovic chipped in 3 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 20 minutes.

In scoring his 14th 20-point game this season, Bairstow became the 31st player in New Mexico school history to collect 1,000 or more points (joining fellow Australian Luc Longley). He was also shortly after named to the Naismith Top 30 watch list for national player of the year honors, his third such accolade having previously been named on the Wooden and Robertson award watch lists.

Bairstow then followed up with his 5th double-double of the season, combining with center Alex Kirk for 53 points as the ‘twin towers’ wreaked havoc in the paint against Nevada as the Lobos cruised to a 90-72 win. The 6’9 Queenslander hit an impressive 9/13 from the field in piling on 24 points with 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in 32 minutes. Greenwood played helper, with 5 dimes up to the main break eventually finishing with 7. He also added 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 32 minutes of his own.

New Mexico remains in contention for the Mountain West conference title, with a 10-2 record and home and away contests to come against #5 San Diego State. Bairstow will be required to continue his inspired and consistent play that has seen him score 14 points or more in every game bar one this season, with 15 of those outings worth 20 points or more. Through 24 games, he is now averaging 20.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 blocks per game with no end in sight for his consistent production.

Team of the Week

I just cannot ignore the fact that Lafayette won their last 2 games, esecially given they have nowon just 4 games in Patriot League play, thanks to the outstanding play of Dan Trist.

Trist in control - Courtesy Rick Smith via Lafayette Athletics

It starts with Lafayette defeating Loyola (MD) 61-44. Although restricted to just 14 minutes due to foul trouble, 6’9” forward Trist still managed to compile an impressive team-high of 14 points on an efficient 5/6 shooting. He also collected 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal as the Leopards won their third contest in Patriot League play – all from their last 4 games. With Trist in foul trouble, 6’10” sophomore forward Nathaniel Musters saw increased on court action, contributing 2 rebounds and 3 blocks in 11 minutes.

The Leopards then made it 4 wins from their last 5 as they rode some hot shooting to upset Patriot League benchmark American 74-62 at home. Junior Trist was simply outstanding in collecting his first career double-double. He led all scorers with 19 points on a sizzling 8/10 shooting, with 13 of those points all coming in the second half that allowed the Leopards to pull away. Trist also finished with a career-high 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal to cap off a remarkable win as the Leopards improve to 4-10 in league play. The forward has now improved his season averages to 13 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists per contest.

Best of the Rest

Sophomore Peter Hooley delivered a sharp shooting performance in nailing 6/8 from the field including 3/5 from downtown in gathering a game-high 21 points to go with 1 rebound and 2 assists. However Albany were not able to capitalise on Hooley’s clutch shooting down the stretch as they fell agonizingly short 69-71 to UMBC. Sam Rowley hit 1/2 from the free throw line with 21 seconds remaining to tie the game up, but UMBC followed a miss with a tip-in to secure the win. The elder Rowley finished with just 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in a foul plagued 22 minutes, while Michael Rowley ended with 6 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench.

Behind the continued stellar play of Hooley, the Great Danes bounced back to overcome Maine 74-63. Playing in front of a home crowd, Hooley was good for 21 points (3/5 3PT) to go with 2 rebounds, 5 rebounds and 2 steals, nailing a key trey to snuff out a Maine fight back in the 2nd half. Senior forward Luke Devlin contributed 6 points and 5 rebounds off the bench, while Sam Rowley only managed 4 points with 5 rebounds in a quiet performance by his standards. Albany now boasts a 7-6 record in the America East conference with just 3 games left in their schedule. Hooley’s outstanding season now has him posting numbers of a team-best 15 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

In the Mountain West, Wyoming caused somewhat of an upset in toppling the previously undefeated (in conference play) #5 San Diego State 68-62 at home. Senior guard Nathan Sobey played an instrumental role in implementing an efficient offense at one end and stifling defence at the other that generated the victory. He managed to collect 9 points (3/5 FG), 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 30 minutes as the Cowboys managed to withstand a strong finish by the Aztecs to hold on for the win.

It is always important to back up a great win with another, and the Cowboys did just that in earning a 46-38 hard slog over San Jose State. Sobey was a little quieter on the score sheet with just 3 rebounds and 1 assist, yet he played a vital role in the outstanding Wyoming defence to help ensure another win as his team improved to 7-5.

Hartford were hot from three-point land as they flew past Maine 91-79. Taylor Dyson hit 5 of the Hawk’s 13 triples on his way to an equal team-high 16 points as his side won their 2nd straight. The 6’4” guard also collected 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals despite being limited to 24 minutes due to foul trouble. The Hawks also received 6 points, a game-high 6 assists and 2 steals from guard Corban Wroe.

While Dyson and Wroe were not as prominent in their next game, Hartford made it 3 wins in a row in sneaking past New Hampshire 61-59. Sophomore Dyson ended with 9 points and 3 rebounds in 27 minutes while junior Wroe contributed 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in 26 minutes. Hartford are now into 3rd place in the America East standings just ahead of Albany.

Venky Jois - Courtesy of Eastern Washington Athletics

Sophomore forward Venky Jois is now headed into uncharted territory after claiming the Eastern Washington school record for blocked shots after swatting away his 100th shot in their 85-72 win over Sacramento State. As the Eagles claimed their 3rd victory in 4 outings, Jois was not too far away from a rare triple-double in compiling a new career-high of 7 assists to go with 12 points (4/6 FG), 9 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 37 minutes.

Eastern Washington made it 4 wins in 5 games after then accounting for Northern Arizona 84-65. Jois was able to take a back seat given the ease of the win but still managed to score 9 points with 7 rebounds and 1 block in 28 minutes. Compatriot Felix von Hofe received some good court burn in compiling 4 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist in 16 minutes. The Eagles are now 7-7 in the Big Sky Conference with Jois giving 12.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.

Continuing his promising freshman campaign, 6’7” guard Jaryd Eustace came off the bench to score a team and new career-high 17 points on the back on 6/9 shooting that included 4/6 from beyond the arc. He also collected 4 rebounds and 1 steal; however the RedHawks were unable to overcome Buffalo at home, going down 62-75. Fellow freshman Joshua Oswald chipped in 5 points and 2 rebounds in 14 minutes as Miami (OH) lost their 3rd in a row.

The RedHawks were unable to halt their slide as they dropped their 4th straight in a 57-68 loss to Western Michigan. In 25 minutes, Eustace produced 8 point, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 blocked shot as the Miami (OH) has now been reduced to a 5-7 record in the Mid-American Conference.

SIU Edwardsville was unable to win their 3rd in a row in taking on Ohio Valley West division leaders Murray State on the road. In going down 72-82, senior guard Christian Salecich was able to log 9 points (4/8 FG), 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 24 minutes.

Salecich was just as effective in a follow-up 83-68 victory over Austin Peay. He shot an efficient 4/5 from the field including 2/3 form long-range for 10 points to go with 1 assist in a foul plagued 24 minutes. The Cougars are now 7-6 in the Ohio Valley West conference, trailing only Murray State.

After a promising start Southland Conference play, Nicholls state lost their 3rd straight, a 64-70 loss to New Orleans. However 6’7” forward Sam McBeath has continued to battle through, scoring 11 points on 4/7 shooting including 3/5 on triples with 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 20 minutes against New Orleans.

McBeath tried hard as always but it was not enough as Nicholls State lost 66-71 to Southeastern Louisiana. The sophomore managed 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in being limited to just 14 minutes due to foul trouble. With 4 consecutive losses, the Colonels are now 7-6 in conference play and have gone from the top to middle of the table.

Taking on Hawaii, UC Riverside were unable to climb out of the Big West cellar as they were outplayed 76-87 on their home court. This result came about despite a commanding 21 point (8/13 FG), 6 rebound and 1 steal performance from 6’10” power forward Chris Patton.

In rounding out this week's update, 6’10” power forward Majok Majok had a poor shooting night but still managed 9 points (4/11 FG) to go with 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 3 b locks in 35 minutes, yet Ball State lost to Bowling Green 64-66. The Cardinals are now 1-11 in the Mid-American Conference with Majok averaging an impressive double-double of 10.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

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