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  • Cooper Burke

College Basketball Season Opens, Players Make Names for Themselves

Yesterday marked the official beginning of the NCAA college basketball season, and amidst the upsets, several players had standout performances. Some were playing their very first games for new teams and others were stepping into bigger roles for their squads. Regardless, they all put the college basketball world on notice and set the stage for strong campaigns.

N’Faly Dante

Oregon star N’Faly Dante had an inferno of his own going against the Georgia Bulldogs. Even though he wasn’t 100 percent thanks to a nagging knee injury, the senior from Bamako, Mali, managed 27 minutes on the court. He bagged 21 rebounds, 13 of which came in the first half, despite appearing to tweak his ankle midway through. He complimented the stellar performance on the glass with 10 points in the first, finishing with 16 and two assists. It appeared the Bulldogs had no answer for Dante as he contributed heavily to second-chance possessions with six offensive rebounds. It was Dante’s combination of size and finesse in the paint that gave Georgia fits, as Oregon outrebounded their opponents 63-21 over the course of the game. Ultimately, Dante led the Ducks to a 82-71 win in their season opener from Las Vegas.

Alex Karaban

UConn forward Alex Karaban played significant minutes as a freshman on the Huskies’ national title-winning squad, but graduated to a much more important piece of their offense on Monday night. The Southborough, Massachusetts product was a hot hand, shooting 66.7% from the floor to a tune of 22 points. He also helped the Huskies stretch the floor against North Arizona as he buried three of six three-pointers and contributed an assist. Karaban scored seven rebounds throughout the contest against the Lumberjacks, lifting UConn to a 92-52 drubbing in their opening game.

TJ Bickerstaff

In the most shocking upset of the day, James Madison defeated Michigan State 79-76 in overtime. Dukes forward T.J Bickerstaff led the team to their second top-25 win in program history over the Spartans with a program-leading double double. Bickerstaff finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, shooting an impressive 61.5% from the floor over 33 minutes. Bickerstaff dominated the paint while he was on the floor for James Madison, scoring all of his points inside the arc and contributing three huge offensive rebounds for the Dukes. Perhaps the biggest moment of the game came from his game-tying shot with 30 seconds left, and he contributed one of the quotes of the sports year as a result. “We’re not scared of names," Bickerstaff said. “We go hard.”

Kam Jones

Marquette knew that guard Kam Jones was in line for a great game against the Northern Illinois Huskies, according to the team. ““You could tell Kam was going to have a good game when you saw him this morning, man,” said Marquette guard Sean Jones, according to AP. “He came into the Al (McGuire Center) real energetic, real happy like he always does. Had a great fit on. He was just ready to go, all business, hair picked out. Man, it was just great to see.”

Jones had 20 points in Marquette’s 92-70 win over the Huskies, shooting 6-for-9 from the floor, and an impressive 3-for-5 from behind the arc. He came out of the gates red-hot, knocking down his three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the ball game. He spread the ball around well and took on a floor general role, tallying four assists. Jones stepped up for a squad also led by reigning Big East player of the year Tyler Kolek, and has become a leader for a Golden Eagles squad beginning the year ranked fifth in the country.

Isaiah Collier

Talented USC freshman Isaiah Collier showed out in his debut for the Trojans, scoring 15 points in the first half of 18 total. Collier was extremely efficient, converting 77.8% of his field goals for 7-9. He complimented that with six assists in 25 minutes, helping USC to a 82-69 win over a talented Kansas State Wildcat squad. Collier also provided scrappy defense throughout his time on the floor, and was led off to a standing ovation from the fans in T-Mobile Arena after he fouled out. With a squad missing Bronny James, Collier provided a huge spark for Southern California by getting to the rim and making solid outlet passes, moving the ball very well.

Each of these players have made names for themselves with their standout performances, and they are ones to watch as the season progresses. They are all young in their college careers, and as they take on veteran roles, their stars will only grow.

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