A near-perfect game from Queens’ inside scorers turned out to be not quite enough Wednesday night against non-conference opponent Livingstone.
Forwards Nkosi Ali and Sean Morgan were a combined 20-of-23 from the field, but the Royals (1-5) couldn’t hang on to an 11-point lead with five minutes to play and dropped a disappointing 73-71 decision to the visiting Blue Bears at Curry Arena.
Senior guard Eric Dubose, who led all scorers with 28 points, won it for CIAA member Livingstone (5-1) with a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds left. A baseline jumper by guard Rob Lewis sailed long for Queens at the buzzer.
“We did just about everything you could do to lose a game in the last minute,” Royals’ coach Bart Lundy said. “We missed free throws, we fouled, we turned it over. We panicked down the stretch and didn’t handle their press very well, and they made every play they needed to make.”
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It was a finish that was hard to envision just minutes earlier, as the Royals looked firmly in control, 64-53, after a three-pointer by former Vance player Marquis Rankin. Up to that point, the game had been tied 14 times with eight lead changes.
Morgan, a junior, scored 23 of his 28 points in the second half on the way to a 12-for-12 shooting night from the field and Ali added 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting. But the Blue Bears countered that inside strategy with some full-court defensive pressure.
“They were pretty effective and we wanted to keep them involved every time we could,” Lundy said. “If we didn’t get a basket in transition we wanted to make sure Sean got a touch.”
But the Blue Bears climbed back into the game. They took their first lead since the early minutes of the second half at 71-70 on a pair of free throws by ex-West Charlotte player Austin Harris with 31 seconds to play.
Lewis hit one of two free throws for Queens to tie the game at 71-71, but fouled Dubose on the other end to set up the game-winning free throws.
“We’ve made progress, but we’ve still got to make the plays we need to make to win,” Lundy said. “We have a lot of new faces, but there are experienced players out there.”
Rankin had 12 points and pulled down 6 rebounds for Queens. Ty Newman and Eric Mayo scored 12 points each for Livingstone.
The Royals held a 34-31 halftime lead after trailing by as many as five in the opening minutes.
NOTES:Queens returns to South Atlantic Conference play Saturday with a 4 p.m. game against Tusculum in Greeneville, Tenn….The Royals’ next home game is at 4 p.m. Dec. 13, a SAC game against Brevard.