The Queens Royals wanted a different kind of game Wednesday night against Wingate than they had had during two regular season men’s basketball losses to the Bulldogs.
They got it – a decisive 84-66 victory in a South Atlantic Conference tournament quarterfinal game at Curry Arena. And unlike the two close regular season meetings, the last one decided on the final possession, this one was well in hand by the final buzzer.
“We knew we had come up short the first two times and we didn’t want that to happen now. It was a big motivator,” said Royals junior guard Rob Lewis, who scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the second half. “We talked about being aggressive, and if we did that the rest would take care of itself.”
Junior guard Marquis Rankin scored 19 points and junior forward Jedarian Jackson pulled down 16 rebounds, nearly half of the Royals’ total.
A 17-2 run early in the second half turned a 10-point Queens halftime lead into a runaway and lifted Queens (17-12), seeded No. 4, into the tournament semifinals in Greenville, S.C., on Saturday. They’ll face top-seeded Lincoln Memorial, ranked third in the national Division II poll.
Senior guard Ryan Daye, junior guard Xavier Griffin and freshman guard Zeriq Lolar scored 11 points each for No. 5-seed Wingate, which finished 15-14.
“We’ve been through what they’ve been going through lately, with a couple losses in a row,” Queens coach Bart Lundy said. “So we didn’t want to give them anything to get them energized. The difference tonight was we got stops and rebounds.”
The Royals led from start to finish, pulling out to as much as a 12-point lead before taking a 39-29 advantage to halftime.
The big second half run, which included points from seven different players, gave Queens its biggest lead at 59-33 with 11 1/2 minutes to play and Wingate didn't get any closer than 16 the rest of the way.
“We just flowed,” Lewis said. “It was a total team effort.”
Lundy said his team would need a similar effort Saturday in their first-ever appearance in the SAC semifinals. Lincoln Memorial is coached by Josh Schertz, a former Queens assistant during Lundy’s first stint at Queens.
“We don’t want to get into a half court kind of game with them,” he said. “They’re very good on the perimeter and we’ll need to play good defense and try to score some points off that.”
NOTES: Tipoff for Saturday’s semifinal at Furman University will be 5:30 p.m. The Lincoln Memorial-Queens winner will play either Carson-Newman or the winner of the Newberry-Catawba quarterfinal in the championship at 4 p.m. Sunday.