No. 15 Utah State has scored at least 80 points in each of its first five games for the first time since the 1986-87 season.
Four different players have taken turns as the Aggies’ leading scorer during that stretch.
Utah State (5-0) will try to continue that balanced effort when it meets LSU (3-1) in the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic on Friday night in Montego Bay.
“I think it’s great to have depth,” Aggies head coach Craig Smith said. “It’s hard for the other team to key on specific guys … when we have all the different guys that can do so many different things. It certainly opens up the floor, makes it much more difficult for a scouting report.”
The opponent’s scouting report is naturally going to feature senior guard Sam Merrill, the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year.
He’s the only Utah State player to lead the team in scoring more than once, including 28 points in a season-opening victory against Montana State.
Then sophomore forward Justin Bean led the way against Weber State with 18, sophomore guard Brock Miller scored 27 against Denver and junior forward Alphonso Anderson had 21 against North Carolina A&T.
Merrill had a team-high 21 in an 82-50 victory against UTSA on Monday night.
“We just care what it says by our logo at the end of the game,” Bean said. “It’s all team-ball.”
The Aggies have held each of their last four opponents to less than 40 percent shooting.
“We thought coming into the year, we’d have a lot of versatility with this team,” Smith said. “I think it’s showing.”
LSU was ranked just five spots behind Utah State in the preseason poll, coming in at No. 22, but the Tigers lost at VCU, 84-82, in their second game of the season to fall out of the rankings.
They had 26 turnovers in that game and committed 24 more even as they bounced back to beat Nicholls State 75-65 in their next game.
But the Tigers showed improvement in a 77-50 victory against UMBC on Tuesday, turning the ball over 14 times.
“We handled the ball a little bit better,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “We had six turnovers in the first half, and one of them was when we had two guys fighting for a rebound, which I can live with. In the second half, we had some inexperienced guys in there, and we didn’t do some things we needed to do.”
The Tigers fell behind 9-1, but Charles Manning Jr. led a strong effort by the bench as LSU outscored UMBC 34-10 the rest of the half, making its last 10 field-goal attempts before the break.
Manning finished with a team-high 16 points.
“He is such a cerebral player,” Wade said of Manning. “He is able to see things when he is out there. It is almost like because he can see things and he knows what is going on once he gets in there, he can just pounce. He knows exactly what the weaknesses are, he knows exactly where to drive and he knows exactly what needs to happen defensively.”
On Sunday, Utah State will face North Texas, and LSU will face Rhode Island.
–Field Level Media