The Lee University men’s basketball team hung on to defeat the University of West Alabama on Sunday afternoon in a defensive slugfest. The Flames scored 29 second half points on the way to the 51-46 win.
Neither team was able to get many shots off early in the game. The first bucket of the game was scored by Jayce Willingham after 90 seconds had passed. A bucket from Josh Lowe and Beyuan Hendricks made it 9-3 with 16 minutes left in the first half.
The two team traded buckets over the next several minutes until the Flames built a 20-11 lead which would be the largest lead of the contest.
The Tigers then went on a 8-0 run to cut the deficit down before PJay Smith made a layup with 1:37 left in the first half. Neither team was able to score the rest of the period and it was 22-18 going to the halftime break.
The two teams traded buckets to start the second half. West Alabama slowly cut into the lead and took their first lead at 27-26 with 14:43 left in the contest. UWA made it 29-26 before Willingham took a pass from Hendricks and laid it in. He was fouled on the shot and made the free throw to tie the game at 29-29.
The two teams traded leads until UWA had a 39-36 advantage with just over five minutes left. Makhi McGuire then made two free throws, and then Lowe had a layup to give the Flames a 41-39 lead which they would not relinquish again.
With just under four minutes left, Smith made four straight points for Lee to give them a 45-41 lead. Willingham had a jumper and McGuire took one to the rim and dunked it to seal the win for the Flames.
Head Coach Bubba Smith was excited about the teams effort in the win. “Really proud of how our team responded today. We’ve gotten both road wins on the back end of our last two trips, which isn’t easy to do. Also, It’s our first win in Livingston, which is one of the most difficult places to play.
I thought our first shot defensive field goal percentage was unbelievable. If we could have finished more possessions with a rebound, we could have made it much easier on ourselves. Regardless, we made more winning plays during the last 10 minutes than we did on Friday, and that was the difference.
Jayce really put us on his back today and we played through him quite a bit. I also thought, though it doesn’t show up in the statistical categories, that Alex Kelehear’s 15 minutes was one of the keys to our win today. His plus/minus was plus 10 and his leadership and ability to communicate and get guys in the right spots was impressive.”
The Tigers dominated the glass in the loss. They outrebounded Lee 53-33 and UWA had 26 offensive rebounds. However, Lee was 17-44 from the field while UWA was 16-63 for 25.4%. Willingham led all scorers with 20 points, Smith added 11, and Lowe had six points.
Only six Flames scored in the contest. Smith pulled down a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in the win. The Flames have now won five of the last six matchups against West Alabama.
Lee will return home to Walker Arena on Friday, December 9th at 8 PM as they will host Auburn University Montgomery.