In their first game at home since Dec. 6 the Lee men's basketball team did not disappoint, defeating the College of Coastal Georgia 89-78 Saturday evening at Walker Arena.
The seventh-ranked Flames (15-1, 7-1) were getting their first look at Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) newcomer Coastal Georgia (4-14, 2-6). Lee held a 31-26 advantage at the intermission but came out in the second half shooting a sizzling 68 percent from the field (22-of-32) to pull out the 11-point victory.
"I was disappointed in our first half play" said Coach Tommy Brown. "We didn't have a sense of urgency the entire game. We would get up big and then let them right back into the game. That is an area that we must improve on if we want to be considered a top team."
Lee shot 58.6 percent from the field (34-of-58) and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line (6-of-18). The Flames were also very solid from the charity stripe hitting 15-of-17 freebies, including a perfect 11-of-11 in the second half. The Mariners shot 39.1 percent from the field for the game (27-of-69), they did most of their damage from behind-the-arc, going 11-of-20 from 3-point distance (55 percent).
"I expected a high scoring game the entire way through but I looked up and saw the score was 11-9 half way through the first half" noted Brown.
Lee won the battle on the boards, outrebounding the Mariners 41-32. The Flames were guilty of 18 floor mistakes while Coastal Georgia turned the ball over 12 times. A key to the contest was scoring in the paint. Lee had 54 points down low compared to just 28 for the Mariners.
The Flames were led by senior Will Barnes who scored a game-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds. Junior Jamorris Gaines, playing in his first home game since joining the team after the semester break, finished with 20 points.
Senior Duran Blue bounced back after missing Thursday's game with a very balanced performance registering seven markers, eight assists and five rebounds. Senior Steve Bennett also returned after missing the previous game adding six points and pulling down eight boards. Sophomore Chad Lee had six points and swarmed around the court to grab nine rebounds.
"I was very pleased with the way Duran Blue returned to lead the team" noted Brown. "Pat (Shaughnessy) also continues to improve each and every game and always gives us good hustle play."
Shaughnessy finished with eight points and five rebounds. Sophomore Corey Billingsley made it three Flames in double-figures as he registered 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field.
The Mariners were led by Kentorey Johnson who managed a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. P.J Reason had 16 points and Jevan Billingers finished with 10 for the Georgia based club.
Coach Brown and the Flames now set their sights on a busy upcoming week of action that begins with a trip to rival Tennessee Temple Monday evening in Chattanooga. Action will get under way at 7 p.m.
"This is a Temple team that has already defeated North Alabama (NCAA Division II)" noted Brown.
After Monday's road test Lee will head back home to host SSAC rival No. 20 Emmanuel College (16-2, 5-1) on Thursday evening.
"Emmanuel looks to have the best team they've ever had" said Brown. Tip time is set for 8 p.m. at Walker Arena.