MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (AP) — Sam Merrill made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 57 seconds left and No. 15 Utah State overcame a 19-point deficit in the second half to beat LSU 80-78 on Friday night at the Jamaica Classic.
Down 54-35 with 16:32 remaining, Utah State (6-0) chipped away by making its first five 3-pointers of the second half. Alphonso Anderson’s 3 cut it to 71-67.
"Obviously, we showed who we are as a team," Merrill said. "Did not play well in the first half, and they shot the ball really well.
"That’s who we are as a team, though; we know there’s always a chance, and we have to find a way to win. That’s what we did tonight."
Anderson missed a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, and LSU grabbed the defensive rebound, but Skylar Mays had it poked away and the Aggies passed it around to run out the clock. LSU had 11 second-half turnovers.
Merrill and Anderson each scored 24 points. Merrill, the Mountain West player of the year last season, was 5 of 9 from 3-point range, made 9 of 10 free throws and had eight assists. Justin Bean had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Diogo Brito scored 12 points.
Mays scored a career-high 30 points for LSU (3-2). He was 10-of-13 shooting with five 3-pointers. Darius Days and Emmitt Williams each scored 14 points.
LSU shot 47% from the field, snapping Utah State’s run of holding its last four opponents to less than 40%.
LSU made six 3-pionters in the first 8 minutes, using a 14-2 run to build an early 28-13 lead. The Tigers finished the half 9 of 18 from distance and shot 52% overall. Days led the way for LSU with 14 points to help build a 44-30 lead.
Utah State’s starters were held to 14 points in the first half, but Anderson kept them within reach with nine points off the bench, including a tip-in at the buzzer.
Utah State: The Aggies improved to 62-18 as an AP-ranked team after extending their run to six straight games with 80-plus points. USU's ranking is the highest for the program since the 1970-71 season when it was as high as No. 9.
LSU: The Tigers barely missed out again on an opportunity to pad their resume with a nonconference win against a ranked opponent. They lost 84-82 at then-No. 23 VCU on Nov. 13. Just like against the Aggies, LSU had an opportunity to tie or go ahead in the final seconds, but Mays turned it over to the Rams with one second left.
Utah State will play North Texas on Sunday.
LSU will play Rhode Island on Sunday.
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