After scoring six points against Cleveland State University, Ray Lee responded with a vengeance by scoring a career-high 38 in Eastern Michigan University’s 74-69 win over the University of Texas at Arlington on Saturday night at the Convocation Center to move to 5-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
Lee was on top of his game as he went 5-for-5 from three-point range, 12-for-15 shooting and 9-for-12 from the foul line.
His 38 points is the most by an EMU player since Carlos Medlock put up 42 against the University of Akron on March 11, 2010 in the Mid-American Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“I put it into my mind that I was going to come back strong with a good game,” Lee said. “When I am focused and dialed in on the court attacking, then I can [produce].”
In the late stages of the first half, Eagles coach Rob Murphy took Lee out of the game for an extended period of time after picking up a technical foul with 2:08 in the first half.
“As a player, you have to know when you are wrong,” Lee said. “I know I was wrong and wanted to fix [things] because I did give up a fast break [lay-up]. On the bench, I thought of it and [I said] when I go back in, I will try not [to make] the same mistake and help my team [out].”
Guard Darell Combs, who started in place of Lee made the most of his time as he scored EMU’s first eight points of the game and went on to score 18 in 25 minutes.
Despite scoring 28 against Cleveland State, forward Karrington Ward only shot 4-for-13 and 2-for-2 from the foul line to give him 11 points.
For UTA, forward Brandon Edwards put up most of his 30 points the hard way as he generated 12 from free throws and the rest off of tip-ins from missed shots and dunks. Also, Edwards grabbed 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
UTA’s leading scorer on the season Reger Dowell scored 22 points in a game-high 38 minutes.
Combs rose to the occasion after Dowell’s three-point make to open the scoring, as he responded with back-to-back makes from long range.
After Combs’ three-point makes, the Eagles would hold the lead for most of the first half despite not being up double digits.
Towards the end of the first half, Lee picked up a technical foul on an inadvertent elbow to guard Shaquille White-Miller’s body.
Dowell shot the free throws and made one of two to make it 40-32 in favor of Eastern.
After Dowell and Ward exchanged baskets to close the half, EMU went into the locker room with a seven-point lead and complete control in terms of the pace.
EMU’s second-half lead grew to as many as 11 on Combs’ amazing crossover and mid-range make with 16:26 left in the game.
For the third consecutive game, Da’Shonte Riley found himself in foul trouble as he was benched with 16:03 left after picking up his fourth personal.
“I wasn’t worried about [Da’Shonte] fouling out,” Murphy said. “I told him to play hard and if you foul out, then you foul out. I needed him in there just for (UTA) to think about him [if they wanted to go in the paint].”
Not long after, Lee began to heat up as he made back-to-back three-point shots and could not be stopped as every shot went in no matter where he attempted on the floor.
Despite guard Lonnie McClanahan’s two foul-line makes to cut the UTA deficit to 72-69, Combs would ice the game in the final minute by splitting four free throws off of two separate fouls.
Forward Glenn Bryant hurt his ankle in Friday’s practice and was held out of the game for precautionary reasons. He is expected to play against the University of Kentucky on Wednesday.
“We could have played him, but he was only at 60 percent,” Murphy said.
On Nov. 27, the Eagles will travel to Lexington, Ky., to take on the No. 4 (Associated Press Poll) Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats are 4-1 on the season and their leading scorer is freshman phenom Julius Randle, who has averaged 20.8 points per game and 13.6 rebounds per game.
Randle scored 22 in Kentucky’s 105-76 win over Texas-Arlington on Nov. 19.
Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.
The game can be seen on WatchESPN and heard on WEMU 89.1 FM.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.