Despite jumping out to a 41-26 halftime lead the Lee men’s basketball team dropped another tough road contest, 76-70 to Valdosta State on Saturday night in Gulf South Conference action.
The Flames trailed 73-70 with 36 seconds remaining but clutch free throw shooting and defense stops by the Blazers halted a late comeback effort.
Lee jumped out to the early advantage thanks in large part to freshman Jervon Johnson. The Ooltewah native finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, 16 of which came in the first half.
“This seems to be a recurring theme,” lamented head coach Tommy Brown. We just don’t play very good defense in the second half. We didn’t have answer for Valdosta tonight and we couldn’t keep them off the glass in the early part of the second period which really hurt us.”
Jalen Crawford and Blake Justice keyed the second half comeback effort for the home team. Crawford scored 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field while Justice added 21 points, hitting 5-of-8 from behind the arc. Jeremy McKay tallied 11 points to go along with five rebounds for the Blazers.
“We played really good for about 25-30 minutes in a very tough environment.” noted Brown. “We knew they were going to come out ready in the second half and we need to be better for full 40 minutes moving forward.”
Cory Billingsley registered 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Flames. Jamal Worthington added 12 points and five rebounds. Tyquan Roberts chipped in 11 points to round out the double-figure scoring.
The two clubs were nearly identical in shooting percentage. The Flames hit 26-of-60 (43.3 percent) from the field while VSU converted 28-of-61 (45.9 percent). Lee hit 37.5 percent (6-of16) from 3-point range but much of that damage came in the opening period.
Lee held a 40-34 rebounding edge in the contest. Brown got plenty of production from the bench bunch as the Flames reserves outscored the Blazers 31-16.
The loss drops Lee to 7-10 overall and 3-8 in conference play. The Blazers move to 12-5 on the year and 6-5 in GSC competition.
The Flames will head home to host North Alabama on Thursday at 8 p.m. Lee fell to the Lions 76-69 in Florence, Ala. on Jan. 4.