LSU Falls to No. 15 Utah State 80-78 After Epic Second-Half Collapse

Glen West

A strong first half was combated by an equally devastating second for LSU basketball Friday night as the Tigers allowed No. 15 Utah State to complete a 19-point comeback in the final 13 minutes and win 80-78 on day one of the Jamaican classic.

The Tigers (3-2) came out swinging in the opening three minutes of the ball game, connecting on four of their first five shots to jump out to an early 10-2 lead.

Sophomores Darius Days and Javonte Smart carried the load early, combining for 17 of the Tigers first 22 points and helped them jump out a 22-13 lead only seven minutes into the game.

Days would finish with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting as LSU received a complete team effort with three players finishing in double figures, including Skylar Mays, who finished with 30 points on 77% shooting.

The offense was just simply unconscious in the first half, hitting on 11-of-16 shots from the field in the first ten minutes and went on to shoot 52% from the field in the opening 20 minutes. Other than the insane shooting percentages, LSU went nine minutes into the game without committing a turnover but would end up with 16 the entire game. 

The defense was just as great as the offense in the first half as LSU held Utah State and its high-powered offense to 30 points on 34% shooting, helping the Tigers carry a 44-30 lead into the break. 

"Well, we made shots, which helps. But our defense was really good," coach Will Wade told the broadcast at halftime.

LSU started the second half much like the first half began as the Tigers expanded on their 14-point halftime lead to as many as 19 points. But as you'd expect a top-15 team to do, Utah State wouldn't bow down so easily as the second half would turn into a game of runs, with LSU on the wrong side of most of them.

Leading 54-37, the Aggies went on a 20-8 run to cut the Tiger lead to five points, forcing a Wade timeout. In need of a counter-punch, LSU relied on its senior Mays to regain control as the Tigers went on a 7-0 run fueled by five of Mays 21 points to build the lead back up to 12 points.

A 20-5 Utah State run would follow, giving the Aggies the three point advantage with 3:01 remaining. Four straight points from Mays would give the lead back to the Tigers as the game approached its final minute.

Those points from Mays would be the final points scored by LSU on the night as the final 2:21 of the game as a three-pointer with 57 seconds left from Sam Merrill, who poured in an Aggie game-high 24 points, would wind up being the dagger.

After dialing in on the defensive side of the ball for most of the first half, LSU allowed Utah State to shoot 56% from the field in the second half including a 7-of-9 performance from the three-point line, capped off by Murill's in the final minute.

LSU had opportunities late but a missed layup from Mays followed by a turnover with five seconds left, put a damper on what was an otherwise sensational night for the senior.

The Tigers will have to shake off the devastating loss in a hurry as the team is set to face Rhode Island on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.