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Queens gets a storybook ending, defeats Marshall for first D1 victory

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Queens University president Dan Lugo stood with school and ASUN officials in the Levine Center on campus just shy of five months ago, saying, “This is a defining moment for Queens.”

181 days later – and a few steps in that same building away from the announcement that Queens was joining Division 1 and the ASUN – the Royals produced another defining moment.

After trailing by as many as 11 points in the second half, Queens answered. Every time Marshall responded, Queens answered. Even when Kamdyn Curfman ripped a corner triple on a break to put the Herd up by eight with three minutes left, Queens answered.

Then, they saved the best for last.

The Royals allowed just one point after that Curfman three, then turned it over to their star to send Curry Arena into a frenzy that had been building since Lugo and Queens officials were presented with a game ball just before the opening tip. Guard Kenny Dye dribbled into traffic and splashed home a runner over two Marshall defenders, tallying the last of his game-high 24 points.

The crowd then held its collective breath as the Herd advanced the ball up the floor and had two point-blank looks at the tin. Both looks harmlessly fell away, however, and Queens claimed its first Division 1 victory with an 83-82 result over Marshall.

“President Lugo, he was over there dapping me up after the win,” Dye said after the game. “Everybody is going through this transition. It’s a hard time for everybody, just because we’ve gotta adjust to so many things. I just felt like we satisfied a lot of people today.”

What range of emotions could one experience in 10 seconds, one might ask? Well…let’s go to the man who made the game-winner.

“That feeling … I don’t really feel what happens until that buzzer goes off and I see everybody rushing me,” Dye said. “That’s the best part about it.

“I don’t think there are too many guys – not trying to be cocky, but that’s just confidence in my game – that are gonna stop me from getting to my spot. If they do, I’ve got shooters – (guard) AJ (McKee), (guard) Kalib Mathews, (guard) Chris (Ashby). I’m gonna kick it out and they’re gonna knock the shot down.”

And on Marshall’s two looks?

“I’m thankful we have Gavin Rains and AJ McKee to get down there to do the big-boy stuff. I thought (Taveion) Kinsey had that putback for sure. He’s a good player. Luckily, he just missed it at point-blank range.”

Then there’s Rains. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior from Trinity, North Carolina, casually compiled a double-double in the Royals’ first Division 1 outing. Rains hauled in 12 boards to go with his 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, each carom seemingly more important than the next. Six of the rebounds came on the offensive end, which helped Queens outrebound Marshall, 47-36.

“Gavin is always big. You show me a dude that has a bigger heart than Gavin Rains, I wanna meet him and shake his hand,” said acting Queens head coach Charlie Wilson. “The kid is relentless. We tried to get him out some today. There were just some really long stretches with no dead balls. He played too many minutes, but it wasn’t by design. He just never stops. He has an unbelievable motor. It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk-through, a practice, or a game. He just doesn’t stop.”

There’s also the tradition of Queens basketball. The Royals have long maintained one of the elite programs at the Division 2 level, and many of those same players responsible for the championship atmosphere call on that winning experience every time they hit the deck – and especially on arguably the biggest night in the program’s history.

“Royals basketball has been a powerhouse for a really, really long time,” Wilson said. “Everybody that’s been a part of it from Dale Layer to Bart Lundy to Grant (Leonard), everybody gets credit for this one. This is a Royals basketball win.”

The moment was so significant that Wilson himself was almost overtaken by it.

“I don’t remember, to be honest with you. I think there’s video of it,” Wilson joked when asked about the atmosphere in the locker room after the game. “These guys have put in a lot of work. It is really good to see them happy and excited and to see the fruits of those 6am, 5:05, and 5:03 boot camps. It was really good to see these guys – they belong on this stage, they know they belong on this stage, and it was really nice for them to get to see the reward of that.”

And finally, there was the crowd. The group – announced as 1,608 but sounding more like 16,008 – stood and screamed from the opening tip to the final horn, the noise filling the bowl-like structure of Curry Arena and seemingly living and dying on each possession, almost willed the Royals to victory. The support was not lost on Dye or his coach.

“It was crazy. Anytime we’ve got fans like that supporting us, it’s a wild house in there,” Dye said. “The energy was phenomenal. That’s what keeps us going. We energize ourselves and we feed off the fans. It’s just crazy to play in that environment.”

“The atmosphere was unbelievable. The fans were unbelievable,” Wilson said. “This place was rocking from the jump. They didn’t stop. Even when we got down 10, they did not stop.

“If there wasn’t that crowd here tonight, I don’t know that these guys pull that off.”

Dye led four Royals in double figures with 24 points on 8-for-17 shooting. Half of that total came in the second stanza, as the fifth-year standout connected on all but one of his five second-half tries. Dye added his own double-double, dishing 10 dimes to Royal scorers.

McKee tallied 14 and grabbed five boards. Jay’Den Turner finished as the third Royal with a double-double, scoring 12 and hauling in 10 rebounds. Queens shot 51.6 percent (16-for-31) in the second half.

Four Marshall scorers also finished in double figures. Kinsey scored 23 and grabbed 10 misses, playing all 40 minutes. Andrew Taylor poured in 20, knocking down 6-of-10 second-half tries. Curfman finished with 15, with Jacob Conner contributing 11 in 32 minutes of reserve action.

Queens returns to action at noon Thursday in Curry Arena, taking on Clinton College. Tip time is slated for noon. Marshall is off until Monday evening, when Tennessee Tech visits the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, W.Va., for a 7:00 start.


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