The No. 22 Lee University men's basketball team remained perfect at home with a thrilling 84-78 comeback victory over West Georgia Thursday, inside Walker Arena.
The Flames fell behind by 14 points in the first half due in large part to the Wolves forcing early turnovers and hitting five triples. Staring a 12-point deficit in the face at the intermission, the Flames rallied to outscore the Wolves 53-36 in the second half. Jayce Willingham drilled a 3-ball with 4:57 left to give Lee its first lead of the game, 69-67.
Quay Kennedy led the way for the comeback with 26 points and seven rebounds as he darted to the hoop early and often, drawing nine fouls and going 9-of-17 from the field. Kennedy nearly went the distance, playing 37 big minutes as leading scorers Ryan Montgomery and Parker Suedekum got in early foul trouble.
"We talked about in the locker room at halftime about coming out with energy and focus in the second half and that's what we did," said Kennedy. "We'd find ways to overcome adversity and I just wanted to keep attacking for my teammates and help us get back into the game."
Willingham, a red-shirt freshman, also proved to be a key factor in the comeback, as he posted 17 points and hauled in six rebounds. Willingham hit 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from the foul line. Suedekum had 12 points and five rebounds while Montgomery, facing double-teams most of the night, had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists despite foul issues.
"We don't win this game without Jayce stepping up tonight," said Lee head coach Bubba Smith. "He had a great week of practice and earned the right to go out there and make a difference for us. He and Quay were excellent tonight. Quay had a great feel out there tonight and was consistently making the right plays for us. When he's getting into a good flow and starting to smile out there like he was in the second half tonight, good things happen for our teams."
Seth Brown-Carter led four Wolves with 20 points. Kadeim Jones added 18, Oronte Anderson tallied 15 and Keshawn Heard finished with 10. The Wolves shot 50% from the field and hit five triples in the first half but faltered to just 33% shooting and 2-of-9 from the 3-point line in the second half. Lee held a 39-29 advantage on the glass and held West Georgia to just five offensive rebounds and eight second chance points.
"This team continues to showcase such an unselfishness and toughness that is really inspiring," added Smith. "We got off to a slow start with some careless turnovers, but a lot of credit needs to go to West Georgia for making things difficult on us. They are a talented team and have played in a ton of close game this season. They always fight 'til the end and we knew this was going to be a battle from the start. Our guys just don't give up and we saw some big-time fight tonight"
Lee improved to 19-4 overall and 14-2 in the Gulf South Conference. The Flames hold a half-game lead on Valdosta State for first place in the conference standings with just four games remaining. The loss sends West Georgia to 6-17 and 4-11 in the GSC.
The Flames will wrap up the home portion of the regular season and honor seniors Montgomery and Suedekum Saturday. Lee will look to avenge an earlier season loss to Auburn Montgomery with tip off set for 7 p.m.
Lady Flames get
12th straight win
When the perimeter game is not firing on all cylinders, Lee’s fourth-ranked women’s basketball team has other answers. On Thursday evening the Lady Flames were led by sophomore Camryn Grant and senior Nicky Widenski in posting their 12th straight victory and improved to 15-1 in GSC play and 23-1 overall.
Lee made just 4-of-23 shots from beyond the arc but finished the evening by hitting 35-of-72 shots overall. They also went to the free-throw line 11 times and converted 10. Assists were a key for the Lady Flames having 17 compared to 11 turnovers.
Grant had a double-double, 18 points and 14 rebounds while Widenski also scored 18 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished off six assists in Lee’s convincing 84-49 victory over the visitors from the University of West Georgia. Not to be outdone, senior Abby Bertram continued her outstanding play with a team-leading 21 points and eight rebounds.
“Cam gave us exactly what we needed from the four spot tonight. She was aggressive in going to the basket to score and pulling down rebounds. This is the type of play we will need from her as we head deeper into the schedule and into tournament play,” praised Lee head coach Marty Rowe.
The Lady Flames wasted no time in jumping out to a 27-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The margin improved to 47-24 at the half. Lee continued to extend the lead to 68-34 after three periods. Rowe used several reserves in the final frame.
Siera Carter paced the West Georgia (7-8 GSC, 14-9) scoring with 13 points. Ashley Lee was the only other Wolf in double-figure scoring with 11. Lee’s defense held West Georgia to just 26% shooting from the field. They were able to convert just 6-of-29 triple attempts and struggled from the charity stripe, 9-of-16.
The Lady Flames will celebrate Senior Night Saturday at 5 p.m., when they host the University of Auburn at Montgomery.