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Kennesaw State turns up the pressure, holds off Queens

Chris Youngblood poured in 22 as part of Kennesaw State's victorious effort against Queens Saturday. (Photo: Kennesaw State Athletics)

CHARLOTTE -- Queens University's start to its Division 1 life has been a quite successful opening act. The Royals came into Saturday night's game having won 12 games and drawn the attention of outlets on both a local and national scale.

Saturday, everything that had gone right for the Royals seemed to vanish. Queens battled fouls, including two of its post players. Nearly a quarter of the Royals' possessions ended in turnovers. Shots that had been finding the net instead fell away.

Still, through those circumstances, Queens battled. Things got a bit better in the second stanza, as the Royals connected on 42.4 percent of their second-half tries. Queens cut its turnover count in half.

The result was as one might expect given those numbers. Kennesaw State tallied three double-digit scorers on the evening, leaving the deck in Curry Arena with a 76-67 victory. Something about the game just felt different, though.

"They've always been resilient, so I knew that was gonna be there," Queens coach Grant Leonard said of his team after the game. "My biggest thing is when we have a cold shooting night -- because we do shoot a lot of threes as a team -- we have to take care of the ball. That's the one thing we didn't do tonight."

To Leonard's point, his club committed 17 miscues that led to 20 Kennesaw State points. The Owls held a 13-2 points off turnovers advantage in the first half, which gradually closed.

The turnovers were largely a function of Kennesaw State's floor spacing and aggression on defense. The Owls compelled at least two turnovers from each Royal starter.

"A lot of it was them. Credit to Kennesaw State -- they were super physical," Leonard said. "They blew up a lot of our screening and actions. I thought they dictated how the game was going to be played. Usually, the team that does that is the team that's going to win. My credit goes to them."

The foul situation also challenged the depth that has helped propel Queens to its fast early start. Two of the post players the Royals used to challenge the Owls in the paint, Gavin Rains and Jay'Den Turner, each tallied three fouls before the interval. Point guard Kenny Dye collected his fourth before the under-8 break, just after Rains added his fourth. Forward A.J. McKee later fouled out.

How much did those fouls affect the Royals?

"Not as much as you'd think," Leonard said. "Obviously, anytime Kenny or Gavin's in foul trouble, it affects things, but neither one of them was having one of their best nights. It did affect our ability to get the ball in the paint. We're a paint touch-driven team, so it did affect that some.

"I thought the biggest thing was that we weren't the initiator of the first screen -- they were. They're really physical, so they were able to screen bodies. That's what hurt us the most."

Leonard emphasized the consistency that has been the hallmark of the program.

"(We'll practice) the same philosophy that we always have," Leonard said. "We're gonna either celebrate or mourn until midnight. Tomorrow's their day off, but Monday, we're gonna get into film about 10:30, we're gonna watch this game, and we're gonna put it to bed."

Owls guard Chris Youngblood guided the visitors, tallying 22 points on a 7-for-11 shooting night. Youngblood cashed in 4-of-6 triples and hit all four of his free throws. Center Demond Robinson added 19 and grabbed eight boards. Guard Terrell Burden tallied 13 on 6-of-9 shooting. Kennesaw State shot 53.7 percent (29-for-54) on the night, hitting 6-of-14 from distance.

McKee paced the Royals with 17, knocking down 6-of-13 tries as one of three Queens scorers in double figures. Dye contributed 14, hitting 4-of-12 from the field and 5-of-10 from the line. Guard Kalib Mathews put home 4-of-7 to finish with 11 points. Queens made 37.3 percent (22-of-59) of its tries, hitting 33 percent (10-of-30) from distance. The Royals converted 13-of-20 (65 percent) from the charity stripe.

Both sides resume ASUN conference play Thursday night. Kennesaw State welcomes Jacksonville to the KSU Convocation Center, while Queens hosts Central Arkansas in Curry Arena. Both games are slated for a 7:00 tip, with streaming on ESPN+.


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