With a 7-footer starting at center and two 6-8 players at forward, the Queens Royals literally pose big obstacles for opponents, especially for a Division II men’s basketball team.
“I’m used to being the biggest player in the lineup, so this is different,” said 6-8 senior forward Brent Evans, who scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Royals’ 96-68 victory over Barber-Scotia at Curry Arena on Thursday night.
Evans has shifted to a forward spot as Nkosi Ali, a 7-foot junior college transfer is being worked into the start lineup at the post position after some early-season injuries. Ali scored 16 points and grabbed a game-leading nine rebounds and senior forward Josh Clyburn led all scorers with 20 points.
The three big men shot a combined 23-of-28 from the field to help the Royals (4-5) overcome a first-half three-point barrage by the Sabers that had Queens up by just four points at halftime.
“We’ve got to learn to play together a little bit more, but I’m going to like it,” Evans said. “We’re going to be able to play inside-out, or just inside or any way you want.”
But they got a little unexpected resistance early on from the visitors from Concord, who are winless in 16 games. The Sabers, who have only one player who’s not a freshman or sophomore, play an independent schedule of Division II and NAIA teams, with a visit to Division I Winthrop also scheduled on Jan. 4.
They kept Queens off balance with a 7-of-11 performance outside the three-point arc in the first half. Sophomore forward Carlos Benton scored 18 points (4-of-6 three-pointers) to lead Barber-Scotia . The Royals, who had held an early 16-3 lead, struggled into halftime with a 41-37 advantage.
“They found open guys and made shots,” said Queens coach Bart Lundy. “In the second half, we did our jobs, played together and played hard. I told them to have a little more fun and not worry so much about who the opponent was.”
Queens started the second half on a 16-2 run, ending with a pair of free throws by Evans which gave the Royals a 57-39 lead. Barber-Scotia never got closer.
“The second half was extremely important to our guys,” Lundy said. “We wanted to go into this break with a positive feeling. This group has worked hard and maybe hasn’t had the success we anticipated. But we have an idea of what it takes to get there.”
Jarrett Stokes scored 11 points for Queens, which shot 67.6 percent from the field (23-of-34 in the second half.
Freshman forward Joel Barnes scored 14 points for the Sabers and Ricky Bowser added 10.
Notes: The Royals return to action with a South Atlantic Conference home game against Mars Hill at 4 p.m. Jan. 4 in Curry Arena…Barber-Scotia plays at Fayetteville State on Saturday.
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