Rebounding from a slow start in the opening five minutes, Lee went on a 29-3 run against visiting Johnson University and coasted to a 99-61 season-opening victory over the Royals on Monday evening in Walker Arena.
The lead grew to 44-18 at the break and the Flames never looked back as 12 of the 13 players who entered the action scored. The balanced attack was led by freshman Jervon Johnson who hit 8-of-14 shots from the field and 3-of-8 3-point attempts to finish with 20 points.
Four other Lee players scored in double figures. Jay Marquette came off the bench to score 13 points and grab six rebounds. Corey Billingsley followed with 12 points. Evan Forhetz was 3-of-3 from behind the arc and finished with 11 markers. He also dished off three assists. Freshman Stedmon Ford rounded out the double-figure attack with 10 points. Valentino Thomas and Tyquan Roberts tallied nine points apiece.
The Flames out-rebounded the Royals 39-24. Muniru Bawa did not score but the 7-footer joined Marquette as their team's leading rebounders, each garnered six.
Coach Tommy Brown was pleased with his club's defensive effort in the first half but frowned on his team allowing Johnson University 43 points in the second 20 minutes. He praised the play of his newcomers. "Jervon (Johnson) stepped up and knocked down some 3's and we are going to need some of that type of scoring," he stressed. The coach also singled out the way guards Bryce Copeland and Forhetz played together in the final half.
"Jay (Marquette) gave us a big lift after we started slow," pointed out Brown. "He and Chad Lee play a lot alike and really battle on the boards." Marquette was 5-of-7 from the field, hit one 3-pointer and converted two charity tosses. Copeland added three assists and converted a 3-pointer in scoring his first points as a Flame.
Lee shot 50 percent (35-of-70) from the field and knocked down 14-of-31 attempts from 3-point range. They struggled a bit at the line hitting 15-of-23 freebies. The Flames also had 19 assists to just 14 turnovers.
High scoring Louis Allen paced the Royals with 25 points. Sean Finneran added 14 and Jordan McClendon pitched in with 10 points to go along with a game-leading seven rebounds. The visitors shot 40 percent from the field (14-of-47) and made 5-of-16 treys. They did plenty of damage from the line, converting 18-of-21. However, the Flames forced Johnson University into 25 turnovers.
Brown and his Flames expect a much tougher test on Saturday when they host rival Tennessee Wesleyan. It will be the second part of a doubleheader in the annual Jack Souther Classic. The ladies will tip off at 5 p.m. and the men will follow at 7 p.m.