Mixed fortunes for Kiwi NCAA basketballers
It was one-for-two for the two New Zealanders in action in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament today.
Steven Adams' Pittsburgh Panthers were stunned 73-55 by Wichita State to fall at the first hurdle in the annual college hoops extravaganza known as March Madness.
Rob Loe's Saint Louis Billikens fared better, taking care of New Mexico State 64-44 to earn a second-round matchup against the winner of the Oklahoma State-Oregon clash.
Adams played his part in an otherwise dismal Pittsburgh effort, the Kiwi freshman phenom finishing with 13 points (5/7 FG, 3/4 FT), 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in one of his better offensive displays of the season.
But the Panthers trailed 26-21 at halftime and could never make a run at the appropriately named Shockers over the second half.
Adams led the Panthers in scoring and rebounding and now has some deep thinking to do around whether he enters the NBA draft or comes back for at least another year at Pittsburgh.
Most analysts believe the seven-foot Kiwi needs another year to develop his game, though much will depend on whether NBA sides declare interest in Adams who's considered to have major upside and the size and athleticism to play in the league.
After the game Adams tipped his hand by telling media he's returning for another year: "I'm definitely coming back. I don't know why you guys keep asking that question. I'm definitely coming back."
Loe, a Tall Black regular in recent seasons, played just 14 minutes for no points (0/1 FG), two rebounds, an assist and a block in the Billikens' comfortable victory over the Aggies. They led 29-16 at the break and comfortably dispelled a run from Wichita State midway through the second half.
It's a notable tournament for fourth-seeded Saint Louis who are still mourning legendary coach Rick Majerus who died in December. The Billikens, with their 28th victory of the season, eclipsed the 1988-89 team's school record of 27 victories.
Loe and his team-mates wore a ribbon with the word "Coach" on their singlets, as they have since Majerus died of heart failure in December. Jim Crews took over the team at the start of the season because of Majerus' health and led the Billikens to the A-10 regular season and conference crowns.
Last year Saint Louis reached the round of 32 before losing to to Michigan State.
- © Fairfax NZ News