Coming off a thrilling 20-point overtime comeback victory on Saturday evening at Montevallo University, the Lee men’s basketball team jumps right back into the heated battles of the Gulf South Conference when it hosts West Alabama (UWA) on Thursday at 8 p.m. followed by a clash with a growing rival against Alabama Huntsville (UAH) on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“There could not be any bigger matchups than UWA and UAH this weekend,” said Lee head coach Bubba Smith as he prepared his team for the home contests.
“We were very fortunate to win a close one at West Alabama (Dec. 4, 51-46), and they are coming of a big win at Huntsville (72-57) this past Saturday. They rebound it better than anyone in the GSC, and probably rank near the top (rebounders) in DII. I thought we did a good job of effecting shots at their place, and our first-shot defensive field-goal percentage was really good. We just gave them too many second-chance opportunities.
“UWA has a really balanced first five with four guys averaging double figures. We must find a way to limit a couple of those guys and keep them below their averages. These games against UWA have been defensive battles over the years, and I do not expect it to be any different Thursday. We will have to play a lot better than we did on Saturday (against Montevallo),” added the coach.
Senior forward Shardarrion Allen leads the Tigers balanced scoring at 14.3 ppg. Junior forward Terry Durham follows closely at 13.5 ppg and paces the team in rebounding (7.8). Justin Allison is at 12.9 ppg and Kuran Garner (11.9). Allison has also dished off 54 assists. The Tigers allow 61.95 points per game and the Flames give up 64.13.
Jayce Willingham is Lee’s leading point scorer. He averages 17.1 ppg. Guard PJay Smith scores at a 14.6 clip but is more impressive by going to the glass for a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per outing. Willingham shoots 51% from the field. Beyuan Hendricks tallies 11.9 ppg. Smith shoots 43% from long range and Hendricks even better at 45%. Hendricks has 65 assists and Smith 61, giving Coach Smith two of the top guards in the GSC.
Turning to Saturday afternoon, the excitement will continue to grow with Huntsville scheduled for a little extra fireworks. The Chargers handed the Flames one of their three league defeats on Dec. 2 (74-62). Four Huntsville players score in double figures. Chancey Johnson (15.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Luke Burnett (12.6 ppg), Max Shulman (10.9 ppg) and CJ Williamson (10.8 ppg) are the leaders. Jack Kostel is the assist man (69). UAH loves the 3-ball. They have fired up 632 this season and made 226 (36%). Burnett has attempted 159 and converted 62 and Shulman has put up 134 and made 49.
Heading into this week’s action, West Georgia traveled to West Florida for a Wednesday evening affair. In the GSC standings, Lee is (12-3) while West Georgia (11-4), Huntsville and Union (10-5) and Valdosta (10-6) follows.
“My biggest concerns this time of year is not records or standings but are we improving and do we have a sense of urgency each night out,” pointed out Coach Smith. “Our first five have to do a better job of setting the tone early on the defensive end. When we’ve attacked teams on the defensive end, it traditionally has led to better offensive efficiency. That is where our focus will be heading into this weekend.”
Thursday will be the annual Mayfield Dairy Day. Free Mayfield ice cream sandwiches will be given away to those in attendance. Also, it will be Greek Night and free popcorn will be given to all Greek Club members at Lee.
On Saturday, it will be Cleveland Youth Basketball League (CYBL) Day. There will be free admission and free popcorn for all CYBL players, cheerleaders and coaches. Players and cheerleaders are encouraged to wear uniforms.