Damian Arsenis checks back in with all the latest on the Aussie men playing Division I college hoops over the past week.
It was a big week in college basketball, with a number of standout performances by the Aussies, a number of overtime thrillers, and some more conference awards. And before we get stuck into the Division I action, it is once again worth referring back to Metro State - a team with a long running association with Australian players. Mitchell McCarron and Nicholas Kay have been in outstanding form for the #4 ranked team in Division II hoops, but they have also both been shining off the court too. McCarron was named 2014 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) Academic Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, whilst Kay joined his team-mate on the RMAC All-Academic First Team. While we are all interested in the on-court exploits, when attending college, academic performance is also just as important and can be easily forgotten. These are great achievements and should certainly be celebrated as they come about.
Player & Team of the Week
This week’s player of the week is the reigning Big Sky freshman player of the year, 6’7” sophomore forward Venky Jois. Jois experienced a standout week where he helped lead Eastern Washington to two straight wins, and was duly recognized by being named Big Sky Conference player of the week. And in earning two straight home wins, the Eagles are also my team of the week!
Venky Jois going up strong - Courtesy of Eastern Washington Athletics
After commencing Big Sky conference play with two consecutive road losses, Eastern Washington bounced back in style in defending their home court against defending conference champions Montana. Behind a 14 point (3/5 FG), 7 rebound, 5 assist, 2 steal and 1 block performance by star forward Venky Jois, the Eagles were able to cap off what is likely to prove to be a very handy win. Next up Eastern Washington took on Montana State and inflicted their first loss of conference action. Despite a dominant first half, the Eagles ended up having to mow down an 11-point last quarter margin to edge ahead. It was two big blocks from Jois within the last 1:25 of the game that helped ensure an Eagles win.
Jois ended the game with his 5th double-double of the season, collecting 14 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in 30 minutes, and impressing everyone along the way. Jois proved once again why he was my #3 ranked Aussie in the mid-season rankings, and this is what Eastern Washington's Head Coach Jim Hayford had to say about his star Australian forward;
“Venky has been consistent through four conference games. It’s neat when you feel like you have one of the premier frontcourt players in the Big Sky Conference and he’s playing that way. So my hat is off to Venky."
Jois has 11 or more points 10 times so far this season that now has him averaging 12.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1 steal and 1.5 blocks per game. For the Eagles to keep winning, they will need their Aussie star forward to keep producing and so far he is doing just that.
Best of the Rest
There was a lot going on in the Mountain West Conference and that is where I will start in rounding up the best of the rest for the past week...
Boise State visited #13 ranked San Diego State and almost pulled off a miraculous win, with a potential game-winner rimming out with just 4 seconds to go. The Broncos ended up losing 66-69, but it was not as a result of the efforts of junior swingman Anthony Drmic who managed to pick up a rare double-double in scoring 17 points to go with 10 rebounds and 1 steal in 38 minutes. Freshman forward Nick Duncan chimed in with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 1 steal.
Drmic scores again against South Carolina at the Diamond Head Classic - Courtesy John Kelly via Boise State Athletics
The New Mexico Lobos has to work overtime in leaving Wyoming with a 72-69 victory. Senior power forward Cameron Bairstow led a balanced scoring attack for the Lobos with 15 points on 7/11 shooting to go with 4 rebounds and 1 block in 38 minutes. Hugh Greenwood was also in good form in compiling 5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals before fouling out in 33 minutes. For Wyoming, senior guard Nathan Sobey was outstanding in collecting 16 points on 6/10 shooting alongside 3 rebounds and 1 steal in 35 minutes, but it was not enough to avoid an overtime loss.
Still on the road, the Lobos then managed to escape San Jose State with a 69-65 win to improve to 3-0 to open Mountain West Conference play. Bairstow was once again prominent in compiling 15 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block in 35 minutes. Greenwood stuffed the stats sheet with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in his 35 minutes on court. In both road wins the Lobos did just enough to get over the line without being impressive, but things did not go their way against UNLV.
While the Running Rebels had no answer for Bairstow who had a game-high 27 points on 10/16 shooting, early foul trouble had him sitting on the bench in the first half. UNLV took their chance to build a lead that they were able to defend on New Mexico's home turf in prevailing 73-76. Bairstow also collected 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks in 35 minutes, whilst compatriot Greenwood provided good support with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 34 minutes of action. Bairstow now averages an impressive 20.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, whilst Greenwood is backing him up with 5.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
Sobey advances the ball versus UT Martin - Courtesy University of Wyoming Athletics
After their narrow home loss to the Lobos, the Wyoming Cowboys hit the road to take on Boise State and came away with a 52-50 upset win despite another big performance by Drmic. Sobey played an integral role in providing the Cowboys with 11 points on 5/7 shooting to go with 3 rebounds and 1 assist in what turned out to be a low-scoring affair. Drmic managed to notch up a game-high 20 points with 7 rebounds in playing the full 40 minutes, whilst Igor Hadziomerovic and Duncan combined for 7 points and 6 rebounds in the tough loss. Sobey is now averaging 7.5 points and 2.6 rebounds per game ahead of Wyoming’s next game against San Jose State.
Behind 17 points (6/9 FG) and 5 rebounds from Drmic and 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block from Nick Duncan, Boise State inflicted Nevada’s first conference loss and earned a much-needed win on the road (74-65). With the big win, the Broncos improved to 2-2 in conference play and now has Drmic averaging 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Drmic has scored 14 or more points in 14 games so far this season. Duncan is also gaining momentum as he becomes more accustomed to the college style of play and is shooting 44.2% from downtown on the season.
Bryant opened Northeast Conference play with a good 77-67 win over St. Francis (PA) at home. Senior point guard Corey Maynard was right at the front and leading the way, collecting 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals in 38 minutes on court. It was Maynard’s 8th game in a row in which he had scored 10 points or more as he continues to provide leadership whilst contributing at both ends of the floor. The Bulldogs’ run of success however did not last long as they dropped their next game at home 67-71 to Robert Morris on a nail-biting finish. Trailing by 2 points, senior forward Claybrin McMath forced a steal to enable Bryant a shot at the win which unfortunately proved unsuccessful. Whilst he only scored 2 points on 1/6 shooting, Maynard made up for it in feeding his team mates, racking up 8 assists and 5 rebounds in 36 minutes. Bryant are now 1-1 to open conference play and next take on Sacred Heart at home, with their star Aussie guard averaging 11.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, a team leading 5 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Behind a new career-high of 24 points from Dexter Kernich-Drew, Washington State sent a fright went agonizingly close to an upset of #15 ranked Colorado. However Colorado managed to edge ahead in overtime to eventually hold off the Cougars 71-70. The big story for the Cougars was their 6’7” Aussie guard Kernich-Drew who was on fire in nailing 8/12 from the field and a sizzling 6/8 from downtown who also finished with 2 rebounds and 1 block in 42 minutes on court. The Cougars and Kernich-Drew next hosted Utah and scrapped out a 49-46 victory. Kernich-Drew was once again impressive in going 5/6 from the field for 10 points to go with 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 36 minutes. With the win, Washington State lodged their first with in Pac-12 conference play (1-3) and next face Stanford. Kernich-Drew is career-best figures of 7.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game.
Ball State’s 6’10” power forward Majok Majok was once again at his best in collecting his third straight double-double, his 6th for the season, but it was not enough as his team fell to Akron 68-72. Majok imposed himself on the game in scoring 16 points on 6/10 shooting to go with 13 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks in 35 minutes. The Cardinals then went on the road to take on Kent State but came up short in a 74-86 loss. In scoring 14 points, Majok came up 3 rebounds short of another double-double but was also able to gather 1 steal and 1 block in 33 minutes. Things did not get any easier for Majok as Ohio focused on defending him and subsequently holding him to 4 points, but the big man still managed 11 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in a foul plagued 28 minutes. However Ball State could not overcome the stifling defense to fall 51-71 for their third straight loss to commence in the Mid-American Conference and face an uphill battle to make up for lost ground. However their big Aussie star is still averaging a double-double of 10.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
Trist looking to score - Courtesy Jeff Levy via Lafayette Athletics
Continuing his solid individual form was Daniel Trist who had an efficient game for Lafayette in an 86-96 loss to Bucknell. The forward went 9/13 from the field in collecting a team and equal season-high 21 points alongside 6 rebounds and 1 steal in just 16 minutes on court. Trist backed up his high-scoring effort with a further 19 points on an impressive 8/11 shooting alongside 4 rebounds in 22 minutes as Lafayette lost again, this time to Boston University 78-89. He then compiled just 9 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist as the Leopards lost their 7th in a row in going down to Loyola (MD) 63-77. Lafayette have now slumped to 0-5 to commence Patriot League play, whilst Trist is averaging 13.1 points at 56.4% from the field to go with 5.9 rebounds per game.
With 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in a limited 28 minutes due to foul trouble, 6’10” center Angus Brandt helped Oregon State notch up an 81-72 win over Stanford. Brandt then stepped it up to post 22 points (7/10 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block but his output was not enough to prevent California escaping Oregon with an 88-83 win. Oregon State are now 1-3 in the Pac-12, with their Aussie center averaging 12.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
In rounding out this week's Aussies in college recap, there were a few more noteworthy performances:
California-Riverside continued their luckless season as they lost their Big West opener to Cal State Fullerton 73-78. Chris Patton came off the bench to chip in 9 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in 23 minutes. The Highlanders then lost their third game in a row, this time to California-Irvine 52-72, and in turn fell to 0-2 in Big West play. Patton provided some of the scoring punch his team was lacking, coming up with 14 points alongside 4 rebounds and 1 assist but it was just not enough.
Jordan Vandenberg was efficient in scoring 10 points on 4/5 shooting to go with 7 rebounds and 1 block but North Carolina State fell agonizingly short against Wake Forest, going down 69-70 in a thriller. Vandenberg was plagued by foul trouble that limited his influence in the second half. The Wolfpack are now 1-3 to commence Atlantic Coast Conference play and it doesn’t get any easier with their next game against #23 Duke on the road.
Coming off the bench, freshman guard Jaryd Eustace chipped in an equal career-high 13 points to go with 3 rebounds in 22 minutes as the Miami (OH) RedHawks accounted for Central Michigan 77-70. Fellow freshman Joshua Oswald, who is firmly entrenched in the starting lineup, chipped in with 4 points and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes.
Forward Sam McBeath scored 14 points including 4/5 from beyond the arc to go with 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 1 block in just 18 minutes as Nicholls State accounted for Lamar on the road 64-60. The Colonels streaked to 3-0 in the Southland Conference before they then lost to Sam Houston State 61-88. McBeath chipped in with 6 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assist in the road loss.
6’4” sophomore guard Taylor Dyson contributed 8 points and 1 rebound in 15 minutes off the bench as Hartford accounted for Main 80-65. 6’2” junior guard Corban Wroe chimed in with 6 points, 1 rebound and 4 assists in 24 minutes. Despite the great win, the Hawks were not able to keep the momentum going as they then succumbed to Stony Brook 50-73 at home. Dyson and Wroe both had just 5 points in the loss as Hartford fell to 1-2 in America East action.
Grand Canyon had a promising win over Cal State Bakersfield 66-63, with freshman guard Sam Daly playing a leading role. Daly contributed a new career-high 12 points on 5/8 shooting to go with 1 rebound, 5 assists and 1 steal in 36 minutes. He backed that up by equaling his 12 point career-high with 4 rebounds and 2 assists in playing the full 40 minutes as Antelopes lost to Utah Valley 58-65. Daly has now played the last 4 games and is continuing to impress.
Worth calling out is the amazing game between Butler and De Paul that went to double overtime! Whilst De Paul prevailed, it was junior guard Jackson Aldridge that was almost the hero for the Bulldogs. Aldridge hit a clutch buzzer-beater to force the second extra period, but Butler were outscored 14-7 to eventually go down 94-99. He finished with 3 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal in 11 minutes, whilst for De Paul, Durrell McDonald went scoreless on 0/3 shooting in 19 minutes.
Has Damian left out any performance of note? Do you agree with his selections? Please share a comment!