Grace men’s basketball dismantles MVNU

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s men’s basketball team led from start to finish in a comprehensive win over Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Wednesday.

The No. 7 Lancers rolled to an 86-64 victory, improving its record to 21-3. Grace remains atop the Crossroads League standings with an 11-3 mark.

Wednesday’s game was also Grace’s annual Hoops for Hope, which aimed to raise funds for freshman Hagen Knepp who is battling cancer. Nearly $9,000 was raised between online giving and in-person giving for the Knepp family’s medical expenses.

The first half could not have gone much better for the Lancers. Elijah Malone began the scoring with a dunk and was fouled. Grace then ran off the first nine points.

The Lancers had a red-hot shooting hand in the half, making their first nine field goals.

Grace’s lead continued to grow throughout the half. At the first media timeout, the Lancers led 14-6.

Mt. Vernon struggled to slow down Grace’s ultra-efficient offense. Grace shot 64 percent from the floor, putting three players in double-digit scoring for the half.

Late in the half, the home crowd noise level reached a crescendo after back-to-back fastbreak dunks — both of which were sparked by Cade Gibbs.

On the first play, Gibbs lobbed a pass to Malone, who finished the alley-oop with one hand. Gibbs then stole a pass and threw down a two-handed flush to push Grace’s lead to 46-20 and force a timeout from MVNU.

Grace pushed its lead to as much as 31 and charged into halftime with a 55-27 lead.

The Cougars (11-12, 4-9 CL) were muted to 27 percent shooting and committed seven turnovers.

Malone (14 points) shot a perfect 6 of 6 from the floor, and Jakob Gibbs (13 points) and Cade Gibbs (12 points) also scored in bunches.

The second half began on a similar note as Malone began the action with another dunk.

MVNU kept pace with Grace in the second half but struggled to put a dent in the Lancers’ armor.

The Cougars managed to trim the deficit to 21 with 9:51 remaining in the game. But Grace scored the next six points, and MVNU could not muster another spurt after that.

The Lancers utilized their bench throughout the second half; no player for Grace saw more than 26 minutes of action.

In the final few minutes, Grace’s crowd erupted as the squad of Jaylen Reese, Marcus Davidson, Cole Beck, Alex Darnell and Malachi Pearson entered the game.

Darnell, making his first appearance for the Lancers, scored a putback layup on his first collegiate touch of the ball. Shortly after, he buried a corner 3-pointer to send the crowd into a cascade of cheers. Darnell scored his first five collegiate points as a result.

Overall, 10 players registered a point in the game. Cade Gibbs led all players with 20 points, 5 boards and 4 assists while shooting 9 of 12 from the floor.

Malone needed just nine shots (7 of 9) to produce 18 points, 7 boards and 5 blocked shots, and Jakob Gibbs had 16 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.

Ian Scott had a double-double in just 17 minutes of action, tallying 10 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks.

Carter Stoltzfus and Jake Wadding each had four assists, and Brycen Graber passed out three assists. As a team, Grace assisted on 26 of its 35 made field goals.

Grace finished the game shooting 53 percent from the floor and held a plus-13 advantage in rebounding. The Cougars shot 35 percent from the floor.

The Lancers end the week at home on Saturday against Taylor at 3 p.m. Saturday will also be Senior Day to honor Grace’s graduating class.