Crete, Neb. - The Doane men’s basketball team returned to action after a two week layoff on Thursday evening against Grace University. Despite a slow start, the Tigers dominated the majority of the game and defeated the Royals, 98-54, as they improved to 16-2 on the season. Grace dropped to 6-10 on the year after the loss.
Doane opened the scoring with a three-point play by Connor Beranek on the second possession of the game. The Royals answered with five points, a three-point basket from JJ Hartung and a lay-up from Mike Lovercheck.
Trailing 5-3, the Tigers responded with a three-point basket and a jumper from Shavontae Samuels. Doane wouldn’t look back as they raced out to a 26-point lead with 7:48 remaining in the first half. Domonique Smith keyed the Tiger outburst as he scored 13 points during a 16-3 run.
Doane took a 51-20 lead into halftime as Smith scored 15 points and Beranek added 11 points. The Tigers hit 57-percent of the shot attempts, going 7-of-15 from behind the three-point line as well. The Royals were limited to 33-percent shooting while going 1-of-6 from behind the arc and 5-of-12 at the free throw line.
In the second half, the Royals came out with a little extra fire in their step as Hakeem Stewart helped close the gap with eight points. Grace cut the Tiger lead to 57-32 as Stewart hit back-to-back three-point shots.
Beranek’s play on both ends of the court turned the momentum for the Tigers as he knocked down a three-point shot on the offensive end and recorded a blocked shot on the defensive end. Doane turned the effort into a lay-up from Samuels to put the Tigers back in front by 30 points. The Tigers went on a 21-0 run over a five minute stretch in which Doane scored on 10 of 12 possessions.
The largest lead of the game for Doane came at the 7:30 mark in the second half as Jens Scholl converted an offensive rebound into a lay-up as the Tigers went ahead 91-40.
Doane placed four players in double figures, led by Smith’s 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Beranek added 22 points with Samuels posting 15 points and seven assists. Nick Reed added 10 points and five assists. Austin Benson led the team with four steals and Scholl had a team-high six rebounds, five on the offensive end.
Grace was led by Lovercheck’s 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Lance Evans added 10 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Stewart dished out a team-high three assists and Evans had a team-best three steals.
Doane shot 58-percent for the game while holding the Royals to 36-percent. The Tigers hit 10-of-24 shots from behind the arc while Grace went 4-of-16 for the game. In the paint, Doane held a 46-28 advantage while out-scoring Grace, 34-13, in points off turnovers.
The Tigers will hit the road on Saturday as they return to conference play at Orange City, Iowa. The top two teams in the GPAC will face off as Doane takes on Northwestern in a battle for first place. The Red Raiders are coming off a 20-point win at Concordia on Wednesday evening.