After not shooting a single free-throw in the first half, the Lee University Flames went to the charity stripe 33 times in the second 20 minutes and converted 25 in a huge 78-66 SSAC victory over Emmanuel College on Saturday evening in Walker Arena.
The win puts the second-ranked Flames in first place (13-1) in the heated conference race and drops the ninth-ranked Lions to 12-2. Overall, Lee stands at 24-1 and Emmanuel slips to 23-3.
Despite not shooting a charity toss in the first half, Lee still led 35-23 at the half. Will Barnes set the pace with 13 of his final 19 points. However, it was the Lee defense that held the Emmanuel shooters to only 28 percent from the field in the opening half that helped open up the lead.
As expected, the Lions came charging back in the second 20 minutes and on two occasions cut the lead down to only four points. "We held our composure well at that point," said Lee coach Tommy Brown. "We haven't been able to do that in earlier games. I thought Duran Blue did a great job of running our offense and keeping us under control."
The Flames featured five players in double-digit scoring, but it was the 16-point and 11-rebound performance of big Steve Bennett that pleased Brown the most. "That's the best game he's played since coming to Lee," praised the coach. "He held his ground and made the big shots. In fact, our entire front line (Bennett, Patrick Shaughnessy, Chad Lee and Jamorris Gaines) were outstanding."
Bennett's double-double was followed by 12 points and five rebounds by Blue. Chase Dunn and Gaines rounded out the double-figure scoring with 10 apiece. Corey Billingsley made 5-of-6 free throws and tallied seven points.
"We were consistent with our shooting the entire night despite Emmanuel picking up the intensity against our guards," noted Brown. The Flames shot 50 percent in the first half and 49 percent in the second 20 minutes. Brown pointed out that his club shot decently despite not connecting on a 3-pointer in the second half.
The Lions were paced by the determined effort of Adrian Justice who finished with 31 points, many coming late in the battle. Luke Miller was the only other Lion to score in double figures. He totaled 13 and Michael Stanley added eight points and seven rebounds.
The Flames will get a badly needed break before returning to action on Thursday night at 8 p.m. when they host Southern Poly. It will be the second game of a doubleheader. In the opener, the Lady Flames will be in a battle for first place in the SSAC against the Lady Hornets.
LADY FLAMES 67
LADY LIONS 41
Led by a balanced scoring attack and shut down defense the Lee women team stormed past Emmanuel College, 67-41 Saturday evening at Walker Arena.
The Lady Flames jumped out to a comfortable 36-17 advantage at the intermission, limiting the Lady Lions to just 20.8 percent (5-of-24) shooting from the field in the opening half. The stingy Lee defense allowed just 14 field goals in the contest and limited Emmanuel to only two 3-pointers. For the game the Georgia-based club shot 30.4 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from behind the arc for the game.
Jenna Adams paced the Lee offensive attack with 16 points. The sophomore forward also grabbed eight rebounds and had two steals. Hollie German tallied 13 markers and dished off six assists while also swiping a pair of steals. Julia Zimmerman canned four treys to account for her 12 points.
"I didn't think we shot the ball as well as we did on Thursday but I was pleased with our overall effort" said coach Marty Rowe. "I was really pleased with our inside play, particularly without Karley (Miller) in the lineup. I think we've discovered some good depth down inside."
Myriah Illes was one of those post players Rowe spoke of. The junior forward pulled down eight rebounds to go along with five points. Freshman Christina Johnson once again saw extended minutes and finished with five boards.
Lee shot 40.3 percent from the field, converting 25-of-62. Once again the 3-point shot was a major part of the Lady Flames arsenal as they went 12-of-29 from behind the arc, good for 41.4 percent. Coach's Rowe's club won the battle on the boards, outrebounding the Lady Lions by a 44-32 margin.
The victory moves the seventh-ranked Lady Flames to 21-2 overall and 11-2 in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC). The loss drops Emmanuel to 14-8 and 8-6 against conference opponents.
"I was surprised we were able to defeat a very good Emmanuel team this easily" admitted Rowe. "If we have to meet them again it's sure to be a tougher contest."
Lee will be begin a busy week of action starting on Tuesday with a trip to Chattanooga to tangle with long-time rival Tennessee Temple at 7 p.m. Following Tuesday's contest will be a SSAC East showdown with Southern Poly on Thursday. The Hornets sit atop the division standings at 13-2 in conference play and handed Lee one of their two losses on the year, beating them on a last second bucket, 70-69 Jan. 26 in Marietta, Ga. Tip time is set for 6 p.m. at Walker Arena.
"We certainly don't want to look past Temple on Tuesday." stated Rowe. "We do want a big crowd to come out next Thursday against Southern Poly. It will be our annual Hoops for Hope game and we will also be retiring the jersey of Brooke McKinnon. So it will be a special night." The annual Hoops for Hope Game benefits the Lee Unviersity Developmental Inclusion Classroom (LUDIC) for children with Autism. The effort has raised over $5,000 in the past three years.