NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia – Australia native and LSU freshman sensation Ben Simmons returned to one of the places of his youth, the Newcastle Basketball Stadium, and posted a double double of 22 points and 10 rebounds to help the Tigers erase a 10-point second quarter deficit en route to an 89-75 decision over the Newcastle All-Stars Saturday night.
The game was the first of a five-game tour for LSU in Australia which continues Sunday night (early Sunday morning in Baton Rouge) back in Sydney against the Sydney Kings of the National Basketball League. That game at 4 a.m. CT will be streamed via audio broadcast by the Sydney Kings broadcast team.
The game drew a standing room only crowd of over 2,000 fans which cheered for both teams equally, especially Simmons and LSU's Darcy Malone, who is also from Australia.
Simmons made 7-of-17 field goals attempts and 8-of-11 free throws for his 22 points including three big second-half slam dunks, the last a running variety from way out of the corner of the lane. He also had two assists and three blocks in 37 minutes of playing time.
LSU had three other players in double figures with Keith Hornsby hitting three treys with 17 points, while Brandon Sampson was able to get 16 off the bench and Tim Quarterman had 13 points and a game-high six assists.
"I thought for the first night out playing against some experienced guys, I thought out players did a good job," said LSU Coach Johnny Jones. "We were able to see some good things that we had been working on, but we were exposed in some areas that we need to work more on. That's what this trip is about and we look forward to another challenge (Sunday) and hopefully we can make some more positive strides."
For the All-Stars, Tom Dawson and Alex Desroches each had 15 points, while Mitch Reuter added 12.
But it was the All-Stars who had things going their way in the first quarter, using a 10-4 run late in the quarter to take a 24-18 lead, outscoring LSU 15-10 over the last five minutes. The Newcastle All-Star team made the home crowd really excited when they scored the first four points of the second 10-minute quarter to go up 28-18.
LSU then scored eight straight to get it to 28-26. Sampson hit a three and then an impressive series in which freshman Antonio Blakeney missed a runner, Simmons tapped it back up and missed and Blakeney got the rebound and scored. That was also the series were Malone, showed his ability to defend by drawing a charge. Malone played 24 minutes and had six points and five rebounds and drew two charges.
Jalyn Patterson then got a steal and score that made it 28-26, but then the Tigers hit a bit of a lull. The teams traded buckets and after tying it at 32, Simmons made a bucket and got a free throw that gave LSU the lead for good, 35-32, at the 3:18 mark of the second quarter. LSU would lead, 42-36, at the half as the Tigers finished the final five minutes of the half on a 12-4 run.
"I think our defensive pressure got better and when our defensive pressure got better, we had some easy scoring opportunities on fast breaks and didn't allow them easy scoring opportunities," Coach Jones said. "They shot the ball well and ran a lot of good stuff offensively. We gave up some back door cuts and we were able to settle in, put more pressure on the ball and take away their easy scoring opportunities."
"I think when they got up 10 it woke us up," said senior Hornsby. "We were a little lackadaisical coming out there. I don't know what that was; probably just getting our legs back together. When we got down 10, we looked at each other and we knew we're not letting this get away from us. We buckled down on defense and started playing like the team we are."
Again in the third quarter, the All-Stars would score the first four points to cut the LSU lead down to two, 42-40, but that was as close as they would get the remainder of the way. LSU was able to expand the lead to 10, 60-50, and went to the final stanza up, 64-59.
Needing just to close the game out in a solid way, LSU responded to build the lead to as much as 14 points as the All-Stars began desperately taking a series of three-pointers to try to get back in the contest. The Tigers outscored the All-Stars, 25-16, to wrap up the night.
The happy crowd then visited with players from both teams on the playing floor after the game as fans clamored for pictures and autographs with Simmons and the other Tigers.
"It was amazing. The last time I was here (at Newcastle Stadium) I was real young and I couldn't dunk and do the things I do now. It's really fun and it was great seeing familiar faces here," said Simmons after the game. "The people watching me stretch was crazy to me. It was a great feeling, an unbelievable experience."
LSU made 33-of-68 from the field and 5-of-15 three-pointers while making 18-of-24 free throw in the contest. Newcastle was 31-of-75 from the field, 3-of-13 from the arc and 10-of-18 from the free throw line. The one stat the All-Stars had the advantage was on the board, out rebounding the Tigers, 45-34, including a 12-7 advantage on the offensive glass.
LSU had a 12-6 advantage on points off turnovers and points in the paint were even at 34-34. The game had six ties and four lead changes with LSU on the leading end of the score for almost 30 total minutes.
Ten of the 12 Tigers dressed for the game with only Henry Shortess and Brian Bridgewater not seeing court time. Friday was Bridgewater's first solid practice since his leg injury at the start of LSU's practice for the trip.
LSU finished the game on the positive side of the assist-to-turnover margin with 13 assists and nine turnovers. The All-Stars had 16 assists and 18 turnovers.
"I thought our guys did a good job of sharing the ball later; I thought we took quick shots early," Coach Jones said of the good scoring. "I thought as the game progressed our guys settled in, made the extra passes and with the extra passes came easier scoring opportunities for us."
After the game with Sydney, LSU is off to the Gold Coast on Monday for a Tuesday night game with the Queensland All-Stars. LSU then travels next Wednesday to Melbourne for two games on Aug. 20 and 22 with Melbourne United.
Tigers win Aussie opener behind Simmons
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