LSU Basketball WIns Third On Aussie Tour, Downing Melbourne United, 97-89
DANDENONG, VICTORIA, Australia – The LSU men’s basketball team put six players in double figures and played a solid basketball game to defeat one of the more respected teams in Australia’s National Basketball League, Melbourne United, 97-89, Thursday night at the Dandenong Stadium outside Melbourne.
The win was LSU’s third in four games on the tour and assures the Tigers of a winning record with one game left to be played against the same United squad in what is being described as a celebration of Victorian basketball on Saturday night at the sold-out 10,500-seat Hisense Arena.
A crowd of better than 2,000 crowded the Stadium’s show courts while adult rec and youth league games went on courts located in other parts of the large venue.
Keith Hornsby and Ben Simmons led the Tigers with 18 points each. The senior hit three treys for LSU, while Simmons was 8-of-10 from the floor with 7 assists. Tim Quarterman had another solid effort, hitting 8-of-16 from the floor with 17 points and 8 assists. Brandon Sampson had 15 points, while Aaron Epps had a strong, improved performance to score 13 points with 9 boards and Antonio Blakeney had 10 points.
The Tigers in this particular game put Samson, Blakeney and Quarterman at the guard spots with Darcy Malone at center and Simmons in the forward position to open the contest.
Todd Blanchfield, who averaged almost 15 points a game last season in the NBL, had a big game for Melbourne United with 34 points and 8 boards, hitting 7-of-11 three-pointers. Stephen Holt had 17 points, Ekene Ibekwe, a recent signee for United, added 14 and another recent addition, Igor Hadziomerovic (who played at Boise State) added 10 points.
LSU shot 50.6 percent from the field for the game, 43-of-85, made eight treys and had 19 assists and just 9 turnovers. Melbourne also had a good night from the field, hitting 27-of-56 (48.2 percent) with 9 treys. Melbourne had a big advantage at the free throw line, getting 26-of-36 compared just 3-of-9 from the stripe for LSU.
LSU posted another advantage of 13-4 in points off turnovers and a strong 58-30 plus total in points in the paint.
“I thought our team showed some really good signs of growth from game one to game four,” LSU Head Coach Johnny Jones said of the win. “The team we played (Thursday) was very seasoned, experienced basketball team and I thought our guys showed great composure throughout the game.
“In the second half, we had to play a long stretch without Ben (Simmons) because of foul trouble and I thought the guys did an excellent job of playing through that stretch. Then, we did an excellent job of closing out the game the right way – sharing the basketball, spacing the floor, knocking down tough shots, defending well on the other end of the floor like we needed to and rebounding down the stretch. I am very proud of the way they have grown and that was why we came over here and that was good to see.”
The United team kept the Tigers at bay in the first ten minutes, going u 26-21 after one quarter of play. LSU began to get some three-pointers going and tied the game at 36-36 with 5:57 to go in the first half. But out of a Melbourne timeout, United hit back-to-back threes and led 42-36, forcing Coach Jones to call a timeout of his own.
From there, LSU went on a 20-8 run the rest of the quarter to open a 56-50 halftime lead. Helping lead the charge was Epps who had a great final five minutes of the half.
“I think our team has improved a lot,” said Quarterman, who is averaging over 18 points and 5.0 assists on the tour so far. ”I think the setback helped us a lot when we lost to the Sydney Kings. We’ve tried to come out and learn to play as a team and stay together. Even when we make our mistakes we just try to play through it and that’s great for a young team. I feel like the team has learned a lot and this is going to help us a lot when we get back together in the fall.”
Simmons and Epps had early third quarter baskets to make the LSU lead, 60-52. A Brad Bridgewater bucket made it 64-59 in favor of the Tigers but United came right back down and hit a three to close it to 64-62, mid-way through the quarter.
It was in that third quarter that LSU learned something about itself as Simmons picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with LSU up, 70-66, with 3:08 to play. LSU finished the quarter up five and Hornsby had 7 straight fourth-quarter points to put LSU up, 83-77, with 6:10 left.
LSU would eventually increase the lead to 10, 91-81, as Hornsby and Sampson hit back-to-back three-pointers. LSU was able to close the game out for the second straight game with no problems.
The Tigers led the contest for23:44 after Melbourne led for 15:49 seconds. Melbourne only got off 56 total shots compared to 85 for LSU, but again had the big free throw advantage. LSU had a 38-32 advantage on the boards, including 15-6, on the offensive end.
“I thought our guys did a good job of sharing the basketball and making plays,” said Coach Jones. “I thought we were efficient. We started off and I thought we took some early shots. We did a much better job later in the game sharing the ball and making the extra pass. I thought everyone got involved and gave us a good, balanced scoring attack.”