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Queen almost upsets Auburn in NCAA

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New Mexico State’s Trevelin Queen hits a jumper against Auburn in NCAA tournament play Thursday. (Rob Gray Photo)

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Auburn was leading 67-58 with 5:47 left to play in the game.

NMMI’s Trevelin Queen with the dribble-drive penetration, past an Eagle defender in a game at home vs. Northern New Mexico College on Nov. 1, 2017. (NMMI Sports Press Photo)

It was a safe bet the game was over with — just outside the left three-point line, New Mexico State’s Trevelin Queen catches a pass, squares up and drains a three-pointer to make the score 67-61.

With 42.4 seconds to play in the game, Queen deflects a pass off an Auburn Tiger player to give the Aggies the ball and a chance to score.

Queen catches the ball, moves his right foot to his left, crossing up the Auburn defender. He dribbles to his left, gathers space and takes a step-back three-pointer that hits nothing but net. The Aggies trail 73-72 with 28.1 seconds left to play in the game.

“I had the mismatch in the game,” Queen said, “based on the defense they were running, we had a lot of open shots.”

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The Aggies hit a three to make it a one-point game as they trailed 77-76 with 6.0 seconds to play. Auburn made one free throw to give them a 78-76 lead. New Mexico State guard Terrell Brown hit one of three free throws as they trailed 78-77 with 1.1 seconds to play — and the ball.

With the ball underneath Auburn’s basket, the Aggies run a play for Queen. Queen runs to the top of the left corner, catches the ball cleanly and in one swift motion goes up and lets go of his three-pointer without a hand in his face. Queen shoots an airball; with that, the 12-seeded Aggies’ hopes of advancing to the next round are gone as Auburn escapes with a 78-77 win at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“I rushed the shot a little bit more,” Queen said. “I had more time than I thought. As soon as I shot it I felt the ball slip out of my hand and it (the ball) curved to the right.”

Queen feels like he can score but prides himself on doing what the team needs him to do. New Mexico State coach Chris Jans and the team felt disappointed in losing to Auburn, especially since they started the game sluggishly. Queen felt like there is a difference in playing a game in the NCAA tournament and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).

“It felt good like a dream come true,” Queen said. “To get to the tournament and be in March Madness and play in front of all those people and your family and friends, it felt good. Being in a tournament game is more intense than a WAC game.”

Queen was the Athlete of the Week for State and has come a long way since he graced the courts at New Mexico Military Institute in 2017. In his sophomore year, Queen averaged 26 points a game, 7.2 rebounds a game and 2.2 assists. One of his favorite games was him torching New Mexico Junior College for 41 points.

“NMMI gave me discipline,” Queen said. “They gave me an appreciation for the freedoms we have. I learned how to be more responsible. It was an eye-opener on being there. Assistant coach Sean Schooley told me to be humble, and coach Ralph Davis gave me confidence in my game, they kept believing in me.”

When he thinks back to his playing days, Queen thought that his best win with the Broncos was against South Plains. The Broncos beat South Plains, 79-73, on the road at the Texan Dome. He noted that NMMI had not beaten the Broncos in decades. The Broncos had a team effort in scoring with Jordyn Owens leading the team with 16 points and Queen contributing 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Rosel Hurley added 12 points and Atem Bior chipped in with 11 points.

“He is an extremely hard working player,” former Broncos’ coach Ralph Davis said. “He’s a talented player and I felt like he was the best junior college player in the country last year. He has an amazing knack for scoring the basketball and has some really strong instinct for defense as well. I’m quite proud of him and I knew he was capable of this type of performance. I feel like the best is yet to come for him next year and he has a lot to show the world. I feel like he is an outstanding young man and I’m very proud of him.”

Queen felt like the game slowed down for him at NMMI, and that he had to ball more — and with that came more opportunities to score. Queen feels like his NMMI experience has helped him at State. He started off slow learning the Aggies’ system and getting the hang of how they play.

“NMMI gave me more of a dedication and work ethic to this sport,” Queen said. “It’s given me a drive to better myself and my life every day. NMMI was the hardest year ever.”

Queen plans to come back next year after he won WAC Tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP). He plans to work on his game during the summer. With a strong group of returning players coming back, look for the Aggies to make some noise and to be the favorites to repeat in the WAC, and get back to the NCAA.

“I would tell anyone at NMMI,” Queen said, “that wants to play Division I basketball, to stay the course and hope for better days. When their time comes, to take advantage of their opportunity. Coach Davis was my main mentor while I was at NMMI. I would talk to him and he would help me keep my confidence up.”