Basketball's cool in a way where, as much of a team sport as it is, it can still be greatly influenced by one player catching fire.
That's what I said in my team preview for Eastern Michigan before the season began. It's actually right there in the opening of the section I titled "The importance of Raven Lee."
"It feels good to go out there and shoot the ball like that," Lee said after the game, enjoying the fact that he knew he grabbed tonight's headlines.
RedHawks head coach John Cooper got a technical foul for getting lippy with the refs early in the first half. To be honest, he had every right to get steamed. Raven Lee went behind the back from left to right to get the ball across mid-court. Geovonie McKnight defending him simply had his hand brush Lee's jersey and a personal foul was called for that.
A very slow start, EMU had a 6-0 lead through the first five minutes, but turned up to 16-7 just minutes later after Lee put up a quick nine points with four free throws and a three-pointer.
"I thought offensively we didn't get off to a great start," EMU head coach Rob Murphy said after the game. "Because of our defense, our lead continued to grow... We focused on defense to start, but [Lee] hit some unbelievable shots, he attacked the rim, hit some 3-point shots and continued to mash the pedal to start the second half."
After going 5-for-25 from the field in the last three games, Lee knew he had to buckle down and take care of business like he knew he could. He mentioned that his preparation was vital to how he performed, saying he wanted to be in "kill mode" in practice, "I just wanted to focus moreso on playing a complete game, block out all the negativity and play my game."
Just before Miami reached 21 points in the first half, Lee hit a fourth 3-pointer getting his personal total up to 20, six above his average. And then he hit another one. And another one. Next thing you know, he's got 27 points [in 13 minutes] at halftime, which is just as much as Miami has while the Eagles grabbed a 21-point lead.
Some RedHawks players found themselves in some foul trouble to start the second half, three of them with three each, an Barnes was the first to reach four. Same can be said about EMU after Tim Bond picked up his fourth, fouling LJ Livingston on a missed dunk.
Sticking to the script, Lee didn't start the second half, but still got the playing time he earned in the game. He made three more shots behind the arc in the the next half and brought fans to their feet. This was long overdue.
Lee shooting 9-for-11 behind the arc is an inside job. 42.— Alex Alvarado (@ARAlvarado13) February 3, 2016
"The last two practices we had have been great," Murphy said. "In particularly, Ray had an unbelievable practice yesterday defensively and offensively. For about an 8-10 minute segment, he was unstoppable."
Three pointer after three pointer, fouled going to the rim time and time again to get 16 free chances from the line only missing once. Lee was hot from the start and kept it going. When he finally reached 46, EMU coach Rob Murphy put him on the bench when they were sitting pretty with a 31-point lead.
Lee had an eFG% of 0.969.
"If I had known (about the record), I would've let him stay in another minute or so, but for me I was more focused on the game," Murphy said when asked about taking Lee out at that moment. He also didn't want him or Toney or Thompson to risk injury when there was six and a half minutes left in the game. Murphy and Cooper are also good friends, so putting Lee back out there basically would've been showboating. "I would've loved to see him get it."
His stat line: 46 points, 11-for-16 from the field (9-for-11 behind the arc), including 15-for-16 from the free throw line. All that in only 24 minutes off the bench.
46 points ties for second in school history with Webster Kirksey (December 1952), only one behind Gary Tyson who had 47 in 1974. Nine made 3-pointers is tied for most in school history with Derrick Dial (1998). 15 free throws made ties Harold Rainey ('66) and John Bowler ('08) for fourth in school history, and his 16 attempts is tied for Bolwer ('06), Justin Dobbins ('08) and Ryan Prillman ('03) for sixth.
It goes without saying that his is his new career-high point total, which was previously 38 against UT Arlington in November of in his redshirt-freshman season.
"I knew I had a chance to be up there, I just didn't know the actual record," Lee continued, "I was just going out and playing. Wasn't worried about the record, really.
"I kinda wish I had it, but during the game that wasn't really my focus."