Updated: Apr 1
Queens guard Kenny Dye led all scorers with 27 in the Royals' first-ever ASUN victory. (Photo: Queens University Athletics)
CHARLOTTE -- "Royals don't quit."
That comment from Queens University President Dan Lugo may have best summed up the way – perhaps the only way – the result Royals fans saw in the first-ever ASUN game came about for both their side and Austin Peay.
The visiting Govs led by 16, 63-47, with 10:43 remaining. The crowd – not bad for a holiday break – seemed resigned to an unfavorable result for the home side. Austin Peay star Elijah Hutchins-Everett had just put home back-to-back buckets. He and fellow standout Sean Durugordon had 40 combined points at that stage. Queens was hitting shots – the Royals just weren’t getting enough of them.
It might have been understandable if that first league game hadn’t gone the way of the Royals.
Instead, the battle-tested, veteran-laden club went to work.
The lead continued to constrict. Nine. Seven. Four. One.
Queens (11-3, 1-0 ASUN) actually seized the lead – its first of the night – on two Kalib Mathews free throws with 3:10 remaining. After Durugordon leveled the game with a freebie, guard A.J. McKee – who had four points to help key the rally – provided the finishing touches. McKee calmly strode to the line, knocked home two free throws, and his team – somehow, inexplicably – would never again trail.
When the final horn sounded, Queens claimed an 81-77 decision, adding yet another Division 1 “first” to a season already loaded with them.
What changed Thursday night?
“Ball pressure, blowing up screens, and not letting the ball get below the free throw line so they could see the angles,” Queens coach Grant Leonard said after the game. “I think at about the 12-minute mark of the second half, we really flipped the switch. We were the harder-playing guys after that.”
The defensive effort showed. Austin Peay (6-8, 0-1 ASUN) did not get another basket from Hutchins-Everett or Durugordon over the final 10:43. The Govs connected on just three buckets in their final 13 tries, leading star Queens guard Kenny Dye to provide a similar assessment to that of his coach on the turning of the game.
“Intensity (was the change),” Dye said. “(Leonard) told us in the first half that we weren’t applying ball pressure like he wanted us to. We weren’t being intense and getting to the 50-50 balls. In the second half, we just turned it up a notch.”
Dye, the fifth-year senior, is popular with his teammates – one exclaimed, “KENNY DYE!” as the team left the floor and headed for the locker room – but asking Dye about his unquestionable leadership – and who controls the locker room – draws an intriguing answer.
“The whole team,” Dye said when asked who spoke up during the halftime adjustments. “We’ve got a whole bunch of leaders in there. I’m not just the only leader. A.J. McKee, Kalib, (forward) Gavin (Rains) -- we all said something, and we all listened to each other.”
“He’s gigantic,” Leonard said of Dye. “It’s always been – from his freshman year – that he never gets rattled. Our guys feed off that. Our guys don’t really play to the scoreboard. They know that they’ll wear teams down and in the end, things will be in our favor.”
Despite their comeback, the Royals found themselves with only a one-possession lead with nine seconds to play after Caleb Stone-Carrawell put home a triple for Austin Peay. Dye was quickly fouled on the ensuing inbounds play, and he could put home neither free throw.
Still, the most important rebound of the game – the miss of Dye’s second free throw attempt – found its way to his hands. The Jacksonville, N.C., native grabbed the carom, absorbed a foul, and put home the free throw that eventually iced the game.
“Man, I don’t think so,” Dye said when asked if anyone else would be the one to haul in the all-important rebound. “I was so mad. I’d already missed like three or four in a row. I’ve been working on (free throws) and working on them. Hopefully, I can get it right.”
So, what’s the secret to this Queens team? How do they keep from blinking on nights like Thursday? Dye offered some insight.
“One more push. One more push,” Dye said. “We know if we can get one good push each media, we’ll be alright. As long as we can get 4-to-6 points each media and get three good stops, we’re gonna be alright.”
Leonard echoed those comments regarding attention to defensive detail. The Royals trailed, 43-29, at the half, then trailed by double digits until the 8:14 mark of the contest.
“In the first half, not happy. In the second half, happy,” Leonard said of that attention to detail. “I think that our attention to detail was average to start. When we realized our backs were against the wall, it really picked up.”
Just two Royals finished in double digits, with Dye’s 27 ending just one off his career-high as a Division 1 player. Dye hit 8-of-14 from both the field and the line on the night. McKee added 14, helping start the Queens charge. Gavin Rains hauled in 13 boards, marking the fourth time this season the Trinity, N.C., native finished with that total.
Queens shot 56 percent (14-for-25) in the second half, finishing at 49 percent (25-for-51) on the night. The Royals strode to the line 36 times, converting 24 of those tries. 28 of those attempts came in the closing stanza.
Hutchins-Everett finished with 24 for the Govs, connecting on 10-of-13 shots and finishing one point off his career-high. Durugordon notched his third 20-point effort of his collegiate career, while Stone-Carrawell added 13 on 4-of-11 shooting. The Govs hit 45.2 percent (28-of-62) from the deck, knocking down eight threes in 18 tries and making all but two of their 15 free throw attempts.
Both sides have a quick turnaround before returning to conference play. Austin Peay travels to UNF Arena to take on North Florida Saturday afternoon in conference play. Tip time is set for 2:00 (Eastern). Queens visits Alumni Coliseum in Richmond, Ky., to square off with Eastern Kentucky, also in ASUN play. Tip time for that contest is set for 4:00.