Facing one of the hottest teams in the country the Lee men's basketball team came up short in falling to No. 12 Valdosta State, 81-70 on Saturday evening.
The Blazers opened up on an 8-0 run to start the second half and led 46-34 with 17:27 remaining but the Flames weathered the storm and climbed back into the contest with a 14-4 run of their own to close within in two at 50-48 with 14 minutes remaining.
Lee would not be able to draw any closer however as the Blazers kept at least a five-point lead the rest of the way home to win their 14th straight game.
Michael McGuirk sparked Lee off the bench with a career high 23 points.
The freshman was 7 of 14 from the field and canned 4 of 7 3-pointers. Ryan Montgomery joined McGuirk in double-figures as he tallied 13 points and hauled in six rebounds.
Parker Suedekum added nine points for the Flames while Chase Cullen put in eight, six coming in the first three minutes and Colton Blevins registered six points before fouling out late in the contest.
Beau Justice led the Blazers with 22 points as he was 6 of 10 from the field and 7 of 9 from the foul line. KJ James followed with a double-double performance of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Jimmy Kodet also turned in a double-double effort with 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Overall the Blazers held a 39-32 advantage on the glass.
Valdosta State did most of their damage from the foul line. The Blazers marched to the line 39 times and connect on 27 while the Flames were awarded just 13 freebies and hit 11.
"We knew we needed a special effort to beat this team on the road and even though we competed hard we didn't play very smart," said head coach Bubba Smith. "We fouled way too much tonight and sent them to the line over 30 times. Everytime I felt like we answered and had some good execution we would follow that up with a bad foul because we were off balance on defense and that's a big area where we need to improve as a team as we head down this home stretch."
Lee shot 41.3 percent from the field in the contest (26 of 63) but hit just 7 of 24 (29.2 percent) from beyond the arc. The Blazers finished the night hitting 47 percent from the floor but were 10 of 20 overall and 4 of 10 from 3-point distance in the second half.
The loss drops Lee to 12-10 on the year and 7-8 in the GSC. The Flames currently hold the eighth and final spot for the GSC Tournament with five games remaining.
The Blazers are now a perfect 12-0 at home this season and improve to 21-2 overall and 13-1 in the GSC. They are two games clear of West Florida in the chase for the No. 1 seed in the GSC Tournament.
The Flames will return home for the first time since Jan. 20 as they host Union University on Thursday at 8 p.m. Lee will tangle with Christian Brothers on Saturday at 4 p.m. before wrapping up the home portion of the regular season Wednesday (Feb. 14) at 8 p.m. against Alabama Huntsville.
A slow start against a very aggressive and hungry Valdosta State club proved costly to the Lady Flames on Saturday afternoon as they wrapped up a four-game road trip with a 67-62 loss to the
The defeat dropped the Lady Flames to 18-5 overall and 11-4 in Gulf South Conference play. Valdosta State improved to 16-7 and 10-5. Lee returns to Walker Arena on Thursday evening and will play host to long-time rival Union University. The action is slated to get underway at 7 p.m.
“I was very disappointed with the way our team came out in the first quarter,” noted coach Marty Rowe. “We had no focus and you can’t expect to do that against a good club, especially on the road. Give credit to Valdosta State. They came out ready for the challenge.”
The Lady Blazers jumped out to a 21-11 advantage at the end of the first quarter and forced the Lady Flames to play catch-up ball the rest of the way. Lee was only able to score 22 points in the entire first half while Valdosta grabbed a 35-22 lead at the break.
The margin grew to 17 points (47-30) midway of the third quarter before the Lady Flames started a comeback that fell just short. In the third frame the Lady Blazers outscored Lee 20-19 but the Lady Flames fought back and outscored the host club 21-12 in the final 10 minutes.
“After a timeout in the third quarter, our team finally started to respond,” said Rowe. “We actually had an opportunity to complete the comeback.” The contest was tied with 1:35 remaining but the Lady Blazers found a way to salt the key victory away.
Carrie Cheeks stayed in foul trouble most of the contest but scored 16 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in only 24 minutes of playing time. Erin Walsh helped lead the comeback with 15 points while Taylor Boggess gave her team a lift with four 3-pointers and 12 points. Abby Bertram added eight points in the loss.
Madi Mitchell led the Valdosta charge in the first half before the Lady Flames found a way to slow the talented post player. She still finished with 22 points and nine rebounds. Kenya Samone` Dixon nailed four key treys and finished the afternoon with a strong double-double, 19 points and 12 boards. Taylor Buie rounded out the double-figure scoring with 13 markers.
The Lady Flames only turned the basketball over seven times but shot just 36 percent from the field and only made seven trips to the charity stripe converting five. On the other hand, Valdosta shot 47 percent from the field and lit up the scoreboard with a 55 percent mark from beyond the arc. A key advantage came at the free-throw line where the Lady Blazers were awarded 20 freebies and knocked down 15.