VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Top-seeded and No. 6 Queens (28-3) powered out a 17-5 run late in the first half and never looked back in an 84-75 win over eighth-seeded Carson-Newman (15-14) Wednesday night at Curry Arena in the quarterfinals of the Pilot/Flying J SAC Men's Basketball Championships.
The win propels Queens to the SAC semifinals and a date with fifth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne. The Eagles season ends at 15-14. Carson-Newman misses out on a third straight trip to Greenville, S.C. and a fourth trip in five years. Although, Carson-Newman does finish the year with a winning record for an eighth straight year, the second-longest streak in program history.
"Credit is due to Queens," head coach Chuck Benson said. "They are obviously as good as advertised. They are a top-10 team and I won't be surprised if they march through this thing and win the conference title"
The loss overshadows Malik Abraham's impact on Carson-Newman's record book. The senior tallied his 259th career three and his 88th of his senior season. He tied Charles Clark for second on the all-time career list with the make, and himself for second on the single-season record. Abraham finished with 10 points in his final game as an Eagle.
"Malik was a guy that I struggled with his first two years here," Benson said. "This year, I have loved who he became. I've really enjoyed coaching him. I appreciate the guy he turned into. He has always been an elite three-point shooter, this year, he transformed into an elite defender."
In addition to Abraham, all three of Carson-Newman's seniors finished in double figures. Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) led Carson-Newman with 17 points, all of which came after halftime. He made 5-of-6 shots and finished with six rebounds.
"Mason has been a part of a third of my wins as a college head coach," Benson said. "To say I'm going to miss Mason Bates is an understatement. He's been an invaluable part of this program. He's won a championships, been to multiple NCAA tournaments and taken us into the top 25 on multiple occasions. I'm really gonna miss that guy."
Carson-Newman and Queens swapped leads four times and were tied three times in a sloppy opening 12 minutes before the Royals took control.
C-N trailed 17-16 with 8:02 to play following a pair of Blake Ervin (Maryville, Tenn.) free throws.
That's when some bizarreness happened to aid the Royals. Queens started its 17-5 spurt with a five-point play. Blake Morrow drilled a corner three and Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) was called for a foul while boxing out Shaun Willett for a potential rebound. Willett knocked down both free throws with Queens in the bonus to give the Royals their biggest lead yet in the blink of an eye.
The lead stretched to double figures after a four-point play from Morrow and Jermaine Patterson's fifth made three of the year.
"That stretch was a combination of things of us not controlling the things we could control, and the quality of team that Queens is, they capitalized," head coach Chuck Benson said. "They took our controllable mistake, and turned it into a scoring opportunity for themselves. We've improved in that area over the course of the year, just not enough to overcome the talent of Queens."
Carson-Newman would cut the lead to single digits four more times the rest of the game, including off a Bates three with 38 seconds left to set the final margin at 84-75 in favor of the Royals.
Willett led all scorers with 21 points and 11 rebounds for his nation's-best 25th double-double of the year.
Daniel Carr added in 18 points. Morrow and Patterson had 13 and 10, respectively, but were also both scoreless after halftime.
Queens' win was underscored by its rebounding. The Royals outboarded the Eagles 39-25. Queens had as many offensive rebounds (17) as the Eagles had defensive rebounds (17).
In spite of a season-high 23 turnovers by the Royals, Queens still managed to accrue 11 more possessions than the Eagles.
Carson-Newman outscored the Royals 28-16 in points off turnovers, but the Royals had an 18-8 advantage in second chance points.
The Eagles actually outshot the Royals 49 percent to 48.4 percent. The Eagles' efforts from the field amount to the second-best night of shooting the Royals have allowed all year.
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