KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For almost the entire first half, the Lee Flames contained the nation’s fifth-ranked field-goal percentage team (49.6) and the Georgetown College Tigers struggled mightily to connect, but they recovered in time to gain control in the second half.
The No. 14 Tigers made only 10-of-33 shots in the opening stanza against a Lee team that always takes pride in its defense. That defense forced Georgetown to dig in on the glass and on the defensive end to claim a 70-62 victory over Lee in a first-round contest at the 2012 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship.
Despite 35.9 percent shooting for the game, Georgetown led for nearly the entire second half en route to its 53rd win all-time at the national tournament. The Tigers used a stellar defensive effort to force 20 turnovers while committing just 10 turnovers of their own. They also grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and turned them into 18 second-chance points. Overall, Georgetown out-rebounded Lee 44-37 and made 10 more free throws.
“Georgetown just out-toughed us,” Lee head coach Tommy Brown said. “I thought we played pretty well in the first half but foul trouble really hurt us. We never seemed to get our offense in gear in the second half. You are not going to beat a team like Georgetown when you give up that many offensive rebounds, miss free throws and turn it over 20 times.”
Georgetown trailed by as many as seven and was down three when it made its crucial 13-2 run that culminated at the 12:42 mark of the second half and put the Tigers in front 48-40. The Flames kept hovering around and cut the Tiger lead to only four points with just under two minutes remaining. However, the Tigers sent to the line and nailed five straight to help seal the win.
Ryan Westbrooks led all scorers with 20 points, making him the only Flame with at least 10 points. After 50 percent shooting in the opening half, Lee slumped to 37 percent in the second half.
The Tigers got a balanced scoring effort as five players went for double-figures: Johonne Hamilton (14), Jordan DeMercy (12), Craig (11), Morris (11) and Thomas (10). DeMercy, a Florida State transfer, also added a game-high 15 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.
The Flames end their season at 20-9. Georgetown moves to Friday’s second-round play with a 26-9 record.