With a handful of new players eager to show what they can do, the LSU men’s basketball team got what it has come to expect from its two returning starters in an exhibition win Friday night over Division II Morehouse College.
While the newcomers were impressive in their unofficial debuts, sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey provided a potent 1-2 punch to key LSU’s 71-47 victory in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Mickey had a big first half with seven points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots. Martin, who scored eight first-half points, came out for the second half with a hot hand and scored the Tigers’ first 10 points to spark his team after a sluggish end to the first half.
Martin finished with 22 points and seven rebounds, and Mickey, a preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference pick, had 11 points and 11 rebounds to go with five blocks.
“I felt like I got myself going (at halftime),” Martin said. “I was thankful this good group of teammates I have found me. They hit me when I was wide open and got me the ball when I was hot.”
A little bit of urging from coach Johnny Jones didn’t hurt, he said.
“Coach Jones wanted me to be one of the leaders, and step up and let my game take over,” said Martin, who made 6 of 7 field-goal attempts in the second half after Morehouse cut a 25-point lead with 3:27 to play to 17 at halftime.
“I thought in the first half, Jarell wasn’t as aggressive as he needed to be,” said Jones, whose team opens the regular season Nov. 15 against Gardner-Webb. “He had one rebound at halftime, and we addressed that. He made some big plays and showed he’s a difference-maker out there on the floor.”
Guard Keith Hornsby was certainly impressed with how Martin, who was 8-of-12 for the night, took over at the start of the second half.
“He was amazing,” Hornsby said. “At halftime, we talked about how we really needed to come out and jump on them. … He really was the catalyst for that.”
Mickey made the difference on the defensive end, especially in the first half. After leading the SEC in blocks last season, he had five in the first 17½ minutes to go with seven rebounds even though Morehouse out-rebounded LSU for the game 66-46 — which annoyed Jones.
“The area that was disappointing was in (rebounding),” he said. “We didn’t do a good job. We were out-rebounded by 20, but on the positive side we held them to 22.9 percent shooting. When you hold them to that low a percentage, you have to finish plays.”
LSU finished with 13 blocks as 7-foot-1 freshman center Elbert Robinson III had three and Martin and guard Tim Quarterman had two each. The Tigers also had 13 steals, with Robinson, Martin and Quarterman getting three each.
Hornsby, a UNC Asheville transfer who had to sit out last season, made a big splash in his debut. He had a team-high nine points in the first half and finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
Point guard Josh Gray, a junior-college transfer, also started strong with 10 points and three assists while running the Tigers offense.
Freshman forward Aaron Epps did not dress for the game. Jones said Epps was held out after having stomach issues Thursday. … The LSU women’s team was introduced during a first-half timeout and threw T-shirts to the crowd before taking seats in the student section. The Lady Tigers play Mississippi College in an exhibition game at 1 p.m. Sunday in the PMAC. Admission is free.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.