On paper, the Aggies next men’s basketball game should be a dandy.
No. 15 Utah State faces LSU, who just dropped out of the AP Top 25, Friday evening at the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic at Montego Bay, Jamaica. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.
"What a great opportunity for us in Jamaica," USU head coach Craig Smith said. "We've had a couple of good days of practice. I know the guys are excited for this game and what a tremendous opportunity."
The Aggies (5-0) put their perfect record to start the season on the line against the Tigers (3-1). The lone blemish for LSU is a road setback at now No. 21 VCU, 84-82, last week. These two have never met on a neutral court and last played one another in 1984.
For the first time this season, the Aggies are not double-digit point favorites. The line opened with USU favored by a point.
Both teams have proven they can score, and each has five athletes that are averaging double figures. Two of the Aggies come off the bench, while the current starting five for the Tigers all average double digits in points.
USU is led by Sam Merrill with 17.4 points a game. He is joined by Justin Bean (13.2), Brock Miller (13.0), Alphonso Anderson (12.0) and Diogo Brito (11.0). Anderson and Brito come off the bench.
LSU is led by the lone senior in the starting lineup in Skylar Mays with 19.7 ppg. Joining him in double-digit scoring is Emmitt Williams (13.7), Darius Days (13.3), Javonte Smart (13.0) and Trendon Watford (12.7). Charles Manning Jr., has started two games and is close to double figures at 9.5 ppg.
"LSU is a very athletic team," Smith said. "They thrive on creating easy baskets, particularly off of offensive rebounding and in transition."
USU averages 86.0 points an outing, which ranks 26th nationally. LSU is scoring 80.5 ppg.
Both teams are also shooting the ball well. The Aggies have made 48.7 percent of their shots, while the Tigers make 49.6 percent. One advantage USU does have is 3-point shooting as it has made 40 treys and shot 36 percent, while LSU has made 22 long-range shots and shot 28.6 percent.
In the rebound department, once again the Aggies and Tigers are nearly identical. USU is fifth nationally with 46.8 boards a game. LSU is 12th in the country at 44.8 an outing. The Aggies have a rebound margin of +16.4, and the Tigers are +12.0.
"We are going to have to rebound well and eliminate their second-chance opportunities," Smith said. "We have to get back on defense. ... We've got to be ready for a little bit of everything. Getting ready for UTSA really helped us in this preparation."
Bean is averaging a double-double for USU with his team-leading 11.0 rebounds a game. Anderson (6.6) and Kuba Karwowski (5.4) are the next top rebounders for USU.
LSU has four players averaging at least 6.8 rebounds a game in Days (8.0), Watford (7.0), Williams (7.0) and Mays (6.8).
The major difference when looking at statistics is assists and turnovers. The Aggies are seventh nationally with 20.0 assists a game, while the Tigers are near the bottom of Division I with 11.5.
Abel Porter is dishing out 4.6 assists a game for USU, while Merrill averages 4.4 dimes an outing. There are five Aggies with averages of 2.0 or better in assists, while just two Tigers are above that average.
It gets worse for LSU when it comes to turnovers. The Tigers are at No. 352 out of 354 Division I schools, averaging 20.5 a game. USU averages 12.0 turnovers a contest.
Another big difference has been scoring margin as the Aggies have won their first five games by an average of 32.6 points. The Tigers have outscored opponents by 11.0.
LSU headed to Jamaica after beating UMBC on Tuesday, 77-50. Manning came off the bench to lead the Tigers with 16 points. Watford and Days both had double-doubles. Watford scored 12 points and grabbed a team-best 12 rebounds, while Days had 10 and 10.
"LSU was a preseason Top 25 team; they are a good team," Smith said. "They are loaded with talent. ... To win this game, we are going to have to eliminate losing to win. Our whole has to be greater than the sum of its parts. All five guys have got to guard the ball and be connected on the offensive end."
USU was last in action on Monday, putting a beat down on UTSA, 82-50. The Aggies had three players reach double digits in scoring in Merrill (21), Brito (17) and Miller (10), as well as a trio of double-figure rebounders in Bean (11), Anderson (11) and Karwowski (10). Miller had a career-high five assists.
Aggie center Neemias Queta made the trip with the team to Jamaica and has been working out more, but nothing official has been announced from the team about his return. Queta was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season but has not played yet because of a knee injury that occurred during the summer.
USU is 110-40 all-time in regular season tournaments, including an overall mark of 56-38 when not serving as the host.
This will be the first game away from the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum for the Aggies this season.