Sam Merrill’s three-pointer with 57 seconds remaining proved to be the winning bucket that allowed No. 15 Utah State to escape the Montego Bay Convention Centre with an 80-78 victory over LSU at the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic Friday night.
The Tigers fell to 3-2 and will play again on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. CT against Rhode Island, a winner Friday over North Texas in the event. Utah State is now 6-0 on the year.
Utah State rallied from 19 points down in the second half to tie the game at 71-71 with 4:11 to play. The teams then traded three-pointers to put the game at 74-74.
USU took its first lead of the game at 76-74 on a fast break bucket by Justin Bean after an LSU turnover. Bean was fouled and the Aggies lead was 77-74 with 3:01 to play.
Skylar Mays drove for a layup to cut it to 77-76 on the next possession and after a steal, Mays was fouled and went to the line for two free throws to give LSU the lead back, 78-77, with 2:21 to play.
Utah State missed a three and got the offensive rebound, but subsequently lost the ball out-of-bounds. The Tigers came down and got a good look from outside the arc, but the shot missed as the game moved inside 90 seconds.
The Aggies called timeout and on the ensuing possession, Merrill hit the shot that would be the final points of the game.
LSU still had plenty of time, but the Tigers missed a shot with 42 seconds to play. USU rebounded and LSU elected to play the possession out with Alphonso Anderson missing a three with 13 seconds left. Mays rebounded but the Tigers were unable to get a shot on the final possession.
Mays had 21 second half points as part of a career high 30 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-6 at the arc and 5-of-5 at the line in 38 minutes. Darius Days and Emmitt Williams each had 14 points in the game, combining to make 11-of-17 shots and 3-of-5 treys.
The Tigers shot 47.5 percent from the field (28-of-59) and 11-of-25 from the arc. The Tigers were 11-of-14 from the free throw line.
Utah State was led by Merrill and Anderson with 24 points each, combining for 14-of-28 overall and 8-of-15 from the arc. Merrill was 9-of-10 at the line. Bean had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Utah State, after shooting just 34.4 percent in the first 20 minutes, made 14-of-29 from the field in the second half and 7-of-9 from the arc. For the game the Aggies shot 43.9 percent (25-57) and 11-of-22 from the arc. USU was 19-of-23 from the free throw line.
LSU did its best shooting in the opening half, hitting 17-of-33 shots and 9-of-18 from the arc. LSU was 11-of-26 in the second half, with two treys.
The Tigers came out roaring in the first half, with back-to-back treys by Smart and Mays and quickly opened up a 12-4 advantage. The lead would go first to 12 at 25-13 on Williams’ second trey of the season and then Mays came with another three to push the LSU lead to 28-13 with 12:26 to go in the first half.
USU cut the margin to nine three minutes later but the Tigers continued to advance the advantage, pushing the first half lead to 17 at 44-27 on a Days three with 1:09 before halftime. The Tigers led, 44-30 at intermission.
LSU continued with the momentum in the early part of the second half, getting a lead of 19 at 54-35 on another Mays three-pointer with 16:32 to play. LSU continued to hold a double digit lead until inside the 7:46 mark when USU made its final push.
The Tigers and Rhode Island game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network on Sunday and broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network. Sunday’s game will be broadcast on Guaranty Media affiliate, 100.7 FM The Tiger.
(Release Provided by LSU Athletics)