While the Lady Flames’ were able to knock off 16th-ranked Delta State to move into first place in the GSC standings, the Flames were unable to find a winning combination against the No. 21 ranked Statesmen.
Leading from start to finish, the Lady Flames (16-4, 12-2) dominated the Lady Statesmen (17-4, 12-3) by a 49-34 tally to take sole possession of first place in the GSC race. Coach Marty Rowe's club entered the contest already receiving votes in the NCAA Division II Top-25 poll.
The Flames (8-12, 4-10) were unable to overcome a 20-point halftime deficit as the 21st-ranked Statesmen (20-13, 13-2) notched a 75-57 victory.
The Lee teams will head to Memphis for a Saturday doubleheader at Christian Brothers University as the Lady Flames will look for their ninth consecutive GSC victory in a 3 p.m. contest to tip things off.
The Lady Flame defense frustrated DSU from the very opening tip Thursday, limiting the home team to just three made field goals in the first half and held the Lady Statesmen scoreless for the first six minutes of the contest. Lee would convert just six field goals in the first 20 minutes and held a 17-12 advantage at the intermission.
Free-throw shooting helped Lee extend the margin in the second period. The Lady Flames made the most of their charity tosses, converting a sizzling 95.7 percent (22-of-23) from the foul line. Delta State would make just half of their freebies (11-of-22).
"We didn't shoot the ball well tonight but we made 19 straight free throws in the second half and that shows a lot of toughness as a team," noted Rowe.
Rowe's club shot just 30 percent (12-of-40) from the field but limited the Lady Statesmen to only 23.9 percent (11-of-46) shooting from the field and yielded just one 3-point basket.
"This is the biggest road win we've had," said Rowe. "To beat a ranked team on the road and be in first place in the conference is huge for us. I'm very proud for our players and proud to be their coach."
Seniors Hollie German and Rachel Lockhart carried the scoring load for Lee. German finished with 16 points and nine rebounds while Lockhart added 14 points and five boards. The two guards combined to convert 16-of-17 from the foul line.
Seneca Walton was the lone Lady Statesmen player in double-figures. Walton registered 11 points and 13 rebounds to complete the double-double performance.
"We got great production from our bench tonight as well." Rowe said. "I thought Christina (Johnson) and Mel (Melanie Barker) stepped up, did their job and gave us good minutes."
Delta State held a slim 36-34 advantage on the glass. Both teams were guilty of just 12 floor mistakes in the contest.
Lee avenged a 71-64 defeat at the hands of Delta State on Jan. 9 in Walker Arena. "We did a much better job this time around on the defensive end," acknowledged Rowe. "We played a lot more zone than we normally do and our players did a great job executing the defense to limit their opportunities."
In the men’s contest, the Flames trailed Delta State 21-18 with 7:14 remaining in the first half, but the Statesmen ended the half on a 21-4 run to break the game open. Lee outscored DSU 35-33 over the final 20 minutes.
“Delta State was very disciplined in their approach offensively,” said Lee head coach Tommy Brown. “They were open up top and we were playing off them, but they refused to settle.”
Delta State scored 38 points in the paint and made 26-of-50 (.520) of their shots. Lee connected on 19-of-53 (.358) shots and tallied 28 points in the paint.
Jamal Worthington and Cory Billingsley were both 4-for-9 from the field and led the Flames with 11 points each. Chad Lee added eight points to go with a team-high seven rebounds.
Chipping in six points apiece were Stedmon Ford, Valentino Thomas and Muniru Bawa.
Delta State received 21 points from Devin Schmidt and 20 markers from Willie Readus. Schmidt was 9-for-16 from the floor and hit 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Readus canned 8-of-9 free throws and pulled down eight rebounds.
“We were told by other coaches in the conference that this was the toughest trip of the year,” admitted Brown. “The two teams (Delta State and Christian Brothers) play such different styles, and you have very little time to make adjustments.”