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Big beginning for Ayton

Bahamian collegiate basketball players get mixed results on opening weekend
Arizona forward, Bahamian DeAndre Ayton (13) shoots over Northern Arizona forward Ruben Fuamba in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, on Friday in Tucson, Ariz. The Arizona Wildcats won easily, 101-67. AP

The country’s top collegiate basketball players got on the floor for the first time this season as the 2017-18 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regular season got underway.

DeAndre Ayton, Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr., Dwight Coleby, Travis Munnings and Calvin Anderson represented their respective teams on opening day.

In the Pacific-12 Conference, highly touted freshman Ayton tallied a double-double in his first collegiate game for the No. 3 ranked Arizona Wildcats. Ayton scored 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field and pulled down 12 rebounds in a 101-67 rout of Northern Arizona University. The 7’1” center also came up with three blocks in the win. Junior guard Allonzo Trier led the way for the Wildcats with 32 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Dusan Ristic added 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Wildcats led by as many as 21 points in the first half. Northern Arizona cut it to 10 in the opening minute of the second half before Arizona opened up the lead again.

Wildcats’ Head Coach Sean Miller said Ayton “did well” in his first game. He said that Ayton wasn’t stopping the ball in the first half the way he normally does.

“He was more passive in the first half, but he was way more aggressive in the second half defensively,” said Miller. “Obviously, there have been some special players that have come through here, but DeAndre Ayton is a special player.”

Arizona jumped out to a 13-4 lead and was up 45-24 with 4:58 to play in the first half.

Over in the Big Ten, Nairn and the nationally number two ranked Michigan State Spartans scored an easy 98-66 win over North Florida.

Nairn scored six points on 3-for-3 shooting from the field in 20 minutes of action. The senior guard also dished out four assists and came up with two steals. Sophomore standout Miles Bridges finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Spartans, and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 13 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

The Spartans took control with a 19-0 scoring run midway through the first half. They led by 26 at half-time and cruised to a lopsided win in the opener for both teams.

Travis Munnings, Calvin Anderson and the University of Louisiana-Munroe (ULM) Warhawks came up short against the Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs on Saturday, falling 83-73.

Munnings had 13 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes of action, while Anderson finished with two rebounds and an assist in six minutes off the bench. The Warhawks were competitive through most of the game but failed to score a point in the last two minutes of the game, allowing TCU to pull ahead and secure the win.

As for Dwight Coleby and the Western Kentucky University (WKU) Hilltoppers, they fell 85-80 to Missouri State.

Coleby finished with eight points and two blocks in 18 minutes of action. Junior guard Lamonte Bearden led the Hilltoppers with 24 points.

Despite having just eight players active for the game, the Hilltoppers, who trailed 45-34 at the half, battled back and came as close as 82-80 with 15 seconds left in the game before Ryan Kreklow sank two free throws and WKU missed a three at the other end.


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