NCAA Spotlight on the Aussie Men: Bairstow is King of the Mountain (West) (3-Mar-14)

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

Earlier in the season I touched base on Mitch McCarron and the success of Metro State. Since then the team has gone from strength to strength, becoming just the 3rd team in history to go undefeated in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with 22 straight wins; the longest active streak in Division II hoops.. They have been superbly led by McCarron, Nicholas Kay and Will Sinclair and are once again at the top of Division II rankings. Individual accolades have since begun to follow, with both McCarron and Kay being named to the All-American second Academic team to show that you can successfully juggle the books alongside hoops. They were the first Metro State players to receive such recognition since fellow Australian Jesse Wagstaff garnered the same honour. I will endeavour to provide a further update on the Aussies at Metro State and their post-season achievements.

Player & Team of the Week

There are two things one could not overlook these past two weeks; 1) Cameron Bairstow is the best performed Australian in college basketball this season, and 2) New Mexico is the best team featuring Australians making big contributions towards their success. Needless to say that Bairstow and his New Mexico team are The Pick and Roll player and team of the week once again. Let’s take a look back to see just why…

It all started against UNLV – a game the Lobos really needed to win to place pressure on Mountain West leaders and then #5 ranked San Diego State. UNLV were no match for the Bairstow and Kendall Williams show who gained revenge for their earlier loss to prevail 68-56. Bairstow was again a beast at both ends, scoring 18 points with 2 assists and 2 offensive boards at one end while pulling down a further 4 rebounds with a new career-high 5 blocked shots at the other. Hugh Greenwood was his usual efficient self in compiling 4 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assist and 1 steal in a blemish free 30 minutes. While Bairstow provides the brawn in scoring and rebounding, Greenwood controls the tempo and does the intangibles that do not often show up on the score sheet.

The stage was then set for a showdown with Mountain West leaders and #6 ranked San Diego State. In front of a national audience, Bairstow stamped his authority on the game, on San Diego State and the Mountain West and placed his full talents on display for all to witness. It may well have been an audition for the NBA, as Bairstow cracked open the Aztecs stingy defence on his way to a game-high 26 points on a sizzling hot 11/18 shooting. It was his 16th 20-point game this season and finished just 1 rebound shy of yet another double-double, also collecting 1 block in 36 minutes of inspired play. Behind the stellar play of their 6’9” power forward, New Mexico at one stage lad by as many as 20 points, eventually winning 58-44. While the Lobos are focussed on winning the Mountain West title, Bairstow did his chances at separating himself from fellow conference player of the year candidate Xavier Thames no harm as the Lobos restricted Thames to just 7 points on 3/15 shooting.

Greenwood should not be overlooked either, as he gathered 6 points on 3/3 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 35 minutes. But it was the Bairstow show that even had Lobos Coach Craig Neal excited;

"I said it before and I said it on national TV, I've got the best power forward in the country playing for us in Cam Bairstow."

After their big win over San Diego State, the Lobo’s re-entered the national rankings at #25 and managed to keep their momentum going in accounting for Utah State 67-58. The “Vanilla Skyscrapers” of 7-footer Alex Kirk and Bairstow both collected double-doubles to help ensure the Lobos came out on top. Bairstow compiled a team-high 14 points with 11 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in 33 minutes. Greenwood was again a dependable supporting act in delivering 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in 35 minutes.

The Lobos then won their 5th in a row as they overcame an early 14-point deficit to eventually pull out a 72-58 win over Nevada. It was once again Bairstow who put his team on his back as he piled on 14 of his game-high 22 points (7/13 FG) in the second half in carrying the Lobos to victory. He also had 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks while Greenwood was also integral, providing 6 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals without logging a single turnover. Coach Neal had this to say after the game;

"I thought our guys hung in there. We got off to a slow start, but to out score them by 18 in the second half was big. Cam was a monster late in the game."

Bairstow has been impressive and consistent, having scored 14 points or more in 27 of 29 games this season, and 20-points or more in 17 outings whilst shooting better than 55% from the field and 72% from the line. He also has 7 double-doubles and now leads the Mountain West in scoring with 20.3 points per game, but also collects 7.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 blocks a contest. He not only collected his 3rd conference player of the week award, he also was named National Player of the Week and International Player of the Week while also being short-listed as one of 15 players for the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Award. Not long after, rated Bairstow as the 8th best player in college hoops this season in their top 10 rankings.

Bairstow with the finish - Courtesy New Mexico Athletics

With a 14-2 record, New Mexico has a chance to wrap up the Mountain West title over the next week with 2 games remaining, include a return battle against now #13 ranked San Diego State. Stay tuned…

Best of the Rest

Thanks to a new career-high of 29 points from Venky Jois, Eastern Washington dispatched Southern Utah 85-74. Jois went 10/16 from the field and racked up a double-double with 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in 38 minutes on court. It was a commanding performance from the reigning Big Sky Freshman of the Year, and it was one that the Eagles needed to help boost their seeding at the conference tournament. The Eagles were unable to follow-up with a win, dropping a 76-87 result to a hot-shooting Portland State. Carrying his scintillating form however was Jois, who this time racked up 18 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal.

If they were frustrated, the Eagles took it out on Northern Colorado and won convincingly 80-66. With 10 points on 5/6 shooting, Jois also gathered 2 rebounds and 2 assists before fouling out in just 21 minutes. However the Eagles then took on Big Sky contenders North Dakota and went agonisingly close to an upset win. Jois continued his high-level play, leading Eastern Washington with his in 37 minutes, taking a buzzer-beater to steal the win away from the Eagles as they fell 67-69. Eastern Washington is now 9-9 in conference play with 2 games remaining. Jois has been outstanding in averaging 13.6 points, 8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.

Sobey advances the ball versus UT Martin - Courtesy University of Wyoming Athletics

Senior guard Nathan Sobey exploded for a game and new career-high 26 points as Wyoming defended their home court in a 72-66 win over Fresno State. Sobey provided leadership and scoring, nailing a staggering 15/17 from the free throw line but also collecting 7 rebounds and 1 assist. However the success was short-lived as the Cowboys then went on a 3-game losing streak following the loss of their leading scorer due to injury.

Colorado State took advantage of a depleted Wyoming line-up despite the outstanding play of Sobey who was once again prominent. He provided 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists but the short-handed Cowboys lost 67-82. Air Force then managed to hold off a late Cowboys charge to win 55-53 in a close one. Sobey continued to step up, going 8/12 from the field to post a team-high 18 points alongside 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 steals.

Next Wyoming took on Boise State who would also be missing their leading scorer Anthony Drmic due to a sprained ankle. The Cowboys raced out to a 15-0 lead and led by as many as 17, however they could not withstand a Broncos comeback to eventually be overrun 63-72. Sobey was restricted to just 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal for the Cowboys after averaging an impressive 19.6 points over his previous 3 games. For Boise state, Nick Duncan contributed 8 points and 3 rebounds, while Igor Hadziomerovic chimed in with 9 points in 26 minutes, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 23 minutes. Wyoming is now 8-8 in Mountain West Conference play, trailing Boise State by 1 game with just 2 regular season contests remaining.

The win over Wyoming made it 3 wins from their last 4 games for Boise State, starting with an 84-72 win over Colorado State. Sharp shooting Drmic went 7/13 from the field on his way to team-high 19 points to go with 5 rebounds and 5 assist as he helped provide the spark for the Broncos who sizzled from beyond the three-point arc. Duncan provided good support with 8 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal, while Hadziomerovic provided 5 assists with 2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal for the Broncos in their solid victory.

It then took a controversial two video replays by the officials in before awarding Boise State a 91-90 overtime victory over UNLV. After the Broncos took the lead with 3.4 seconds left in the extra period, UNLV eventually had their game-winner waved off. Drmic was again at the forefront in compiling an equal game-high 22 points with 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Duncan had 12 points of his own with 1 rebound and 1 block.

Despite two quality wins in a row, Boise State was then upset 56-76 on the road by Fresno State. Drmic only had 2 points and 7 rebounds before rolling his ankle, while Duncan only had 1 point but a massive 11 rebounds. Boise State is now 9-7 in conference play ahead of closing out the regular season with games against Nevada and Air Force. Despite his recent ankle injury, Drmic is now averaging 16.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

Oregon State lost a tough encounter to Oregon 83-93. The Beavers remained in contention in part due to Angus Brandt who had 11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in 30 minutes. They were able to bounce back immediately thanks to a 68-57 win over the struggling Washington State Cougars. Brandt logged a team-high 16 points, 2 rebounds and 3 steals in 31 minutes to continue his solid form. Compatriot Dexter Kernich-Drew added 8 points, 1 rebound and 1 block for Washington State who are in the midst of a season they would rather forget.

The Beavers were then trounced 62-86 by Washington. Brandt still managed to contribute 10 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist in just 18 minutes on court. In keeping with the pattern, the Beavers then regrouped to account for USC 76-66. Brandt again notched double figures in scoring with 13 points to go with 1 assist in just 24 minutes. Brandt’s run of 18 games where he had scored in double-digits came to an end against UCLA, only able to compile 9 points with 4 rebounds and 1 assist before fouling out in 30 minutes.

Brandt has been a model of consistency for the Beavers who now boast a 7-9 record in the Pac-12. The 6’10 center is now averaging 12.5 points, 4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, playing an important role at both ends of the court.

Recently Oregon State completed a four-part television series that premiered in the US two weeks ago. The series is called “Rise & Grind” which is a behind-the-scenes look at the 2013-14 Oregon State men’s basketball program and their challenges on and off the court as they try to work their way back to national prominence. With insights provided by Beaver legends A.C. Green and Gary Payton, the second instalment takes a good look at 5th year red-shirt senior Brandt as per the trailer below:

If you can get your hands on a full copy, please be sure to let me know.

With a team-high 13 points, Peter Hooley led Albany to a 57-48 win over Binghampton. In an all-round performance, Hooley also gathered 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals in 35 minutes. Forward Sam Rowley chimed in with 6 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in 26 minutes.

The Great Danes then backed up with another win, this time a 66-48 result of New Hampshire. It was Sam Rowley that stepped up with a big game, coming off the bench to provide a game-high 19 points (7/10 FG), 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 30 minutes. Hooley was good for 12 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists and 1 steal in 32 minutes.

Albany rounded out America East conference play by losing to Stony Brook 68-73 and finish with a 9-7 record. Sam Rowley finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal while Hooley also had 15 points with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Combined, they were not able to overcome the team with the superior record. Hooley’s spectacular season has seen him garner averages of 14.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists and Sam Rowley has been right there with him in averaging 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Sticking with the America East Conference, Albany as they earned a 75-68 victory over Massachusetts Lovell. Guard Taylor Dyson chipped in 8 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block in just 17 minutes, while Corban Wroe went scoreless but had 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block in 24 minutes. However the Hawks lost ground to Albany after being trounced by America East benchmark Vermont 47-72. Dyson tried his best to shoot the Hawk’s out of trouble in ending with a team-high 13 points with 3 rebounds in 28 minutes but it was not to be. Wroe provided 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists and 1 block in the loss.

Hartford needed to regroup quickly and did just that in staving off Binghampton 89-83 in overtime. In hitting 4/8 from long-range, Dyson ended with 14 points alongside 6 rebounds in a valuable 23 minutes. With 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assist, Wroe provided effective support despite battling foul trouble for a portion of his 30 minutes. In their final conference game, the Hawks swooped on UMBC to record a 67-56 win and moved above Albany into 3rd place. Wroe was outstanding in shooting 7/9 from the field including 4/5 from downtown in ringing up a game-high 21 points. He also had 3 rebounds, 2 assist and 1 steal in his sublime shooting performance. Dyson was the one providing support, with 7 points and 1 steal.

Patton with the jump hook in the lane - Courtesy Gabriel L Acosta via UC-Davis Athletics

Chris Patton collected 14 points with 8 rebounds and 2 assists as UC Riverside lost to Cal Poly 64-69. In a luckless season for the Highlanders, they finally caught a break as they won a double-overtime thriller against Cal State Northridge 106-105. Patton was massive in collecting a valuable double-double, scoring a game and season-high 30 points on a red-hot 13/19 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and 2 steals before fouling out in the 2nd extra period. However before he left the game, he had already scored 5 of the Highlanders 9 points in the last extra period to help earn them a 4th Big West win this season. for his efforts, Patton was also named International Player of the Week by, resulting in back-to-back week's that Australian's earn this recognition.

Lafayette managed a 76-64 win over Holy Cross with Dan Trist scoring 10 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in being limited to just 20 minutes due to foul trouble. The Leopards followed up with a 77-71 win over Lehigh, their 4th in a row and 6th from their last 7 games. Trist was again in fine form, providing another 10 points with 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 25 minutes.

The winning run however came to an end, with Colgate proving too strong in prevailing 83-66 despite a strong showing by Trist. The 6’9” junior forward racked up 19 points and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes. Army then inflicted a 2nd straight loss on the Leopards in holding on to win 87-84. It was Trist who was again providing the points, collecting 17 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in 26 minutes.

With 1 game left in Patriot League play, Lafayette has improved to a 6-12 record. Trist has been solid all season in providing 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.

Bryant lost to Wagner 61-73 with Corey Maynard adding 10 points, 1 rebound and 2 assists and 1 steal in a relatively subdued performance by his standards. Then despite a team-high 17 points with 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal from Maynard; the Bulldogs lost their second straight in going down 52-63 to Fairleigh Dickinson 52-63.

The Bulldogs managed to halt the skid momentarily as they edged ahead of Central Connecticut State 68-65. Maynard who graduates after this season was at his best, scoring a game-high 21 points with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals on senior night. In doing so, Maynard hit his 1,000th career point, a fast break lay-up early in the second half to cement his place in Bulldogs history.

Back on the road, Bryant then lost at Mount St. Mary’s 73-88. Maynard posted uncharacteristic numbers with just 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in the road loss. Next up was St. Francis (NY) and despite leading by 13 at the half, the Bulldogs were unable to hold on as they fell 59-62. Maynard chipped in 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 1 block but could not prevent Bryant from dropping their 4th in five games.

In their last game of Northeast Conference (NEC) play, Maynard led all scorers as all five of Bryant’s starters scored in double-figures in their 81-62 defeated of LIU Brooklyn. Maynard was outstanding, adding 19 points, 1 rebound and 7 assists. With the win, Bryant secured a number 3 seed in the NEC tournament thanks largely to Maynard who ends his final regular season at college with averages of 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

In a triple overtime thriller, Ball State finished on the wrong end of a 95-101 final score line against Central Michigan, falling agonisingly short of just their 2nd win in Mid-American Conference play. 6’10” power forward Majok Majok only went 2/2 from the field and 2/2 from the line in finishing with 6 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist in an uncharacteristic 36 minutes. The pain continued for the Cardinals as they lost to Toledo minus Majok who was unable to suit up.

The imposing Majok was back in action as Ball State then lost their 3rd overtime game in conference play, going down 81-88 to Western Michigan. Majok went close to a double-double in collecting 9 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in a foul plagued 25 minutes. However Ball State finally broke through for their 2nd win of the regular season, accounting for Central Michigan 74-71 at home. Majok was back to his double-double best with 14 points and 14 rebounds with 2 blocks. With 2 games remaining on their schedule, Ball State has a chance to elevate from the cellar and leapfrog Central Michigan, and they will need Majok, who is averaging 10.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, at his absolute best if they wish to finish off a long season strongly.

Miami (OH) snapped a 5-game losing streak in defeated Bowling Green 55-52. Freshman Joshua Oswald managed 9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 15 minutes off the bench to help ensure the win. Oswald was quiet but the RedHawks won 2 in a row in holding off Akron to win 65-61. This time it was fellow freshman Jaryd Eustace who stepped up to help seal the win. In 24 minutes off the bench, Eustace contributed 9 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 2 steals. Eustace then had 7 points, 4 rebounds and 1 steal but Miami (OH) lost to Buffalo 55-78 and now have a 7-9 record in the Mid-American Conference with 2 games remaining.

#7 ranked Louisville humiliated Rutgers 102-54 and 6’10” power forward Mangok Mathiang contributed 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 15 minutes off the bench. He then backed up with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block as the Cardinals thrashed South Florida 80-54. Louisville is in first place in the American Athletic conference and is a genuine chance of repeating as national champions.

And a couple more shout-outs to the following two performances to round out this week's update:

  • Durrell McDonald had 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steal as DePaul nearly upset Marquette but fell short 94-96.

  • Sam McBeath had 12 points, 6 rebounds and 1 steal but Nicholls State lost to Incarnate Word 67-69.

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