OMAHA, Neb. -- Chris Ashanti made his return from a two-game absence to score 17 points to lead the 23rd-ranked Bellevue University men's basketball team to a 73-60 road victory over Grace University on Wednesday evening in non-conference action.
The win moves Bellevue to 18-9 on the season with three games to play, including a pair of crucial North Star Athletic Association games. Grace dips to 12-15 with the loss.
Bellevue built a 31-27 halftime lead on the strength of their free throw shooting and minimizing turnovers. The Bruins hit on 81.8 percent of their first half attempts from the charity stripe and turned the ball over just five times in the opening 20 minutes, compared with Grace's eight first half turnovers.
The second half saw both teams heat up from the field with the Royals connecting at a 46.7 percent rate (50 percent from beyond the arc). Despite the improved shooting it wasn't enough to overcome Bellevue's torrid 55.6 percent pace from the field and matching 50 percent effort from deep. Most telling in the second period was the Bruins' 20-10 advantage on the glass which limited Grace to just three offensive rebounds.
Nicolus Guzman narrowly missed his second double-double of the season finishing the evening with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Chris Burton posted a solid all-around game, finishing with five points, five assists, and three rebounds on the night.
D.J. Hanes paced the Royals with 15 points while LeRoy Anderson added 11, and Jacob Heck chipped in eight of his own. Heck and Hakeem Stewart shared high-rebounding honors for Grace, each finishing with five, but Bellevue claimed the battle of the boards, 40-31.
The victory was the 208th in head coach Shane Paben's career at Bellevue, which moves him into second place on the all-time list ahead of Hall of Famer Jerry Mosser. Todd Eisner holds the school record with 225 coaching victories with the Bruins.
Bellevue returns to the hardwood on Saturday, Feb. 13 when they host Dickinson State University at 4 p.m. Prior to the game, Bellevue will be honoring their four seniors – Marquis Aaron, Chris Ashanti, Nicolus Guzman, and Olutola Olushola – as part of the Senior Day festivities.