The first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball season is behind us as the season is officially underway. The opening weekend was filled with some outstanding performances, as players from big named schools and mid-majors alike had games to remember. Here are six performances that stood out from the first weekend of the college basketball season.
6. Jahlil Okafor, Center, Duke Blue Devils
The top recruit from the 2014 class made his presence felt in his first two college games. Duke dismantled Presbyterian and Fairfield, 113-44 and 109-59 respectively, and Okafor is a big reason why. He is averaging a team-leading 18 points per game, and is shooting 85 percent from the field, having only missed three attempts in two games. He is also averaging 7.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 blocks and 0.5 steals. He is delivering the total package and so far looks to be the real deal, albeit against inferior competition. Let’s see how he does against Tom Izzo and Michigan State this Tuesday as part of the State Farm Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
5. Corey Petros, Forward, Oakland Golden Grizzlies
Oakland, who was picked to finish seventh in the Horizon League preseason, gave the Iowa State Cyclones all they could handle in the opening weekend. The Golden Grizzlies hung tougher than many people would have guessed, and in big part because of Petros. Petros put together a solid line, going toe-to-toe with Georges Niang. In 38 minutes, Petros scored 25 points on 10-12 from the field and 5-7 from the foul line. He filled up the box score, leading his team with eight rebounds and also chipped in six assists. It was a full day’s work for Petros who rarely came off the court, registering 38 minutes played.
4. Corey Walden, Guard, Eastern Kentucky Colonels
Walden, the Colonels senior guard, was the driving force in an impressive opening day victory. Walden lead his team 20 points and eight assists. It could have been an even bigger scoring day for Walden if he had his jump shot going, shooting 0-5 from beyond the arc. However, he still managed to knock down half his shots, going 6-12 overall. The stat that stood out for Walden was on the defensive end, where he could have been cuffed for theft, registering eight steals on the night. He capitalized on poor ball security on the part of the Savannah State Tigers, who turned the ball over 33 times in the game, easily the most of any team this weekend.
3. Montrezl Harrell, Forward, Louisville Cardinals
Harrell started the 2014-2015 season off with a bang against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Armed Forces Classic from U.S.C.G. Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Harrell showcased his impressive athleticism with some emphatic dunks. Harrell led the way with 30 points and seven rebounds, but it was the way he scored which makes his performance noteworthy. He shot 9-10 from the foul line which marks the most makes he has recorded in a single game. For a player who shot 46.4 percent from the line as a sophomore and 50.8 as a freshman, that is an outstanding number. Even more astounding was his stroke from deep, as he knocked down 3-4 from beyond the arc. That is one more than he had in his first two seasons at Louisville combined.
2. Georges Niang, Forward, Iowa State Cyclones
Niang is unquestionably the leader of the Cyclones this season, and through one game looks supremely confident in the role. As mentioned above, Corey Prestos went toe-to-toe with Niang as well as he could, but Niang had a dominant game. Niang did a little bit of everything for the Cyclones in their 93-82 victory. In 33 minutes, he scored a career-high 30 points, knocking down 9-17 overall, 2-3 from the three point line and 10-11 from the charity stripe. He also added nine rebounds and a team-high five assists, playing the point-forward role to perfection. Lines like this could become a normal outing for Niang as the vocal point of the Cyclones attack.
1. Zaid Hearst, Ousmane Drame, Forwards, Quinnipiac Bobcats
When you play a double-overtime game, there will be some eye-popping stats. Quinnipiac’s double-overtime victory over Yale this weekend was no exception. Hearst led the way offensively, scoring a game-high 34 points, the second highest scoring output of the weekend. He made 12-20 shots, knocking down 4-9 from deep and 6-10 from the foul line in the process. He did more than score, as he grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out five assists and one block.
Speaking of blocks, that is why Drame had to be included as well. While Hearst did plenty of damage offensively, Drame did it defensively. He led the team with 15 rebounds, adding three steals and seven blocks. Drame was a monster in the paint, as the seven blocks were tied for the most in a game this weekend. He also chipped in 13 points to help get the Bobcats their first win of the season on opening night.
*Section Photo credit to David Purdy, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Mark Deolejs, USA Today Sports.