When Rob Lewis led, his Queens teammates followed.
Lewis scored a game-high 32 points, including 20 in the second half to pace the Royals in a 77-52 win against Lenoir-Rhyne in their South Atlantic Conference opener at Curry Arena. Queens (1-2, 1-0) opened the second half with Lewis scoring 12 of the Royals’ first 20 points to turn a 30-25 deficit into a 45-40 gap that grew to as many as 26 points.
“I wasn’t really focused on scoring,” said Lewis, who hit 12-of-16 shots, including 8-of-9 in the second half. “I was just trying to do what I do best in order to help our team win.”
Queens turned the tables when it turned up the defensive pressure after intermission. The Royals pressed relentlessly and the Bears (0-3, 0-1) couldn’t adjust, turning over the ball 18 times compared to Queens’ 6. The Royals pressed that advantage into a transition attack that resulted in a 22-2 gulf in fast break points. Queens limited Lenoir-Rhyne to 6-of-23 shooting (26.1 percent) shooting and 10 turnovers in the second half.
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“We thought we needed to keep them a little off-balance,” Queens coach Bart Lundy said. “They’re a rhythm team and we threw different presses at them and found one that seemed to be working.”
Lewis’ explosion opened the floodgates for Queens, which used its quickness and 67.9 percent (19-of-28) shooting in the second half to pull away. Forward Ali Nkosi chipped in 12 points and hauled down 13 rebounds for the Royals, who connected on 49.1 percent of their field goal attempts.
“I credit that to my big man, Nkosi Ali,” Lewis said. “He was grabbing every rebound it seemed and throwing it out to Trey Ervin and Marquis Rankin, and they were kicking it up to me.”
Lenoir-Rhyne led by as many as 11 in the first half before settling into a 30-25 advantage at intermission. Lucas Reed paced the Bears with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting while Rob Noyes added nine on 3-of-5 shooting for Lenoir-Rhyne, which connected on 39.3 percent (11-of-28) of its field goal tries.
“They decided they wanted to play like they wanted to play,” Bears coach John Lentz said. “We can’t play that way. We played like we were supposed to in the first half. The second half, we didn’t.”
Queens struggled to find the range, converting just 29.6 percent (8-of-27) of its shots, but went on a 10-0 run to close within 20-19 with 4:53 left. Queens guard Rob Lewis paced all scorers with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting but Lenoir-Rhyne took advantage in the paint, outscoring the Royals 16-10 and hauling in 24 rebounds to 16.
“We’ve had a bunch of preseason injuries and haven’t had much practice time,” Lundy said. “Really, the last two days have been the first days we’ve been together. The first half we were still a little rough.“