DANDENONG, VICTORIA, Australia — With six players in double figures, the LSU basketball team assured itself of a winning record on its exhibition tour of Australia with a 97-89 victory over Melbourne United on Thursday.
LSU improved to 3-1 on its Australian tour with another matchup against Melbourne United, a four-time champion of that country’s National Basketball League, set for Saturday before the Tigers head home.
Guard Keith Hornsby and forward Ben Simmons had 18 points each to lead LSU. They were joined in double digits by guards Tim Quarterman (17) and Brandon Sampson (15), forward Aaron Epps (13) and guard Antonio Blakeney (10).
“Our guys did a good job of sharing the basketball and making plays,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “We were efficient. … I thought everyone got involved and gave us a good, balanced scoring attack.”
Simmons had another solid outing, going 8 of 10 from the floor, while Quarterman was 8 of 16. While they shot well, they also facilitated the scoring for their teammates as Quarterman finished with eight assists and Simmons seven.
Epps, a sophomore who played sparingly last season because of injuries, pulled down a team-high nine rebounds in just under 20 minutes, while Simmons added seven.
For the second game in a row, Jones experimented with his lineup. He started Quarterman, Blakeney and Sampson at guard with Simmons at forward and Darcy Malone at center. Hornsby, a senior who started all 33 games last season, came off the bench.
In the Tigers’ previous game on Tuesday against the Queensland All-Stars, Jones had Blakeney, a freshman, come off the bench and gave Sampson, another first-year player, his first start.
LSU shot 50.6 percent from the field, hitting 43 of 85, while Melbourne was 27-of-56 for 48.2 percent. The Tigers made eight 3-point baskets and had 19 assists as a team with just nine turnovers.
“Our team showed some really good signs of growth from Game 1 to Game 4,” Jones said in a university news release. “The team we played (Thursday) was a very seasoned, experienced basketball team, and I thought our guys showed great composure throughout the game.”
Jones was pleased with how the Tigers played when Simmons had to spend some time on the bench in the second half because of foul trouble. Simmons played 32 of a possible 40 minutes.
“The guys did an excellent job of playing through that stretch,” Jones said. “Then, we did an excellent job 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. … That was why we came over here, and that was good to see.”
Todd Blanchfield, who averaged almost 15 points a game last season in the NBL, had a huge game for Melbourne with 34 points, going 7 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc, while Stephen Holt added 17 points.
“I think our team has improved a lot,” said Quarterman, who is averaging over 18 points and 5.0 assists on the tour. “Even when we make 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. This is going to help us a lot when we get back together in the fall.”