Men's basketball travels to Virgin Islands, bonds through service

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The Doane men’s basketball team traveled over 2,000 miles for their games last weekend.

The team traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands where they dropped a pair of contests but enjoyed some sunshine as a team and spend time volunteering.

While there, the team played against Warner University who is ranked 21 in the NAIA and the University of the Virgin Islands. According to Doane Athletics, the team lost to Warner 68-82 and lost to Virgin Islands 67-75.

In the Tigers’ first game, WU led the Tigers 43-31 at halftime. The Royals were led by Maxwell Benoit who finished with 26 points, shooting 11-of-14. The lead point scorer for the Tigers was junior Anthony Laravie with 21 points, going 8-of-11 from the field.

In the second matchup of the trip, Doane started strong and led 20-13 in the first eight minutes, but found themselves down 32-41 at halftime following a 28-12 run in the Bucs’ favor. UVI lead scorer was Joss Goss with 32 points. DU’s lead scorer was junior Miguel Lopez who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds.

Coach Ian McKeithan said the trip came about from the coach at the University of Virgin Islands, who was reaching out to various schools for their tournament.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for our program to visit somewhere new and play against some teams that we wouldn’t normally get a chance to,” McKeithan said.

Senior Garran Pauli felt that despite the losses, the team is making steps in the right direction in these early games.

“I know the scoreboard isn’t translating that,” Pauli said. “But I feel like we are growing and learning from each game.”

Junior Trace Tupper echoed Pauli’s statement.

“Even though we didn’t get the outcomes that we wanted from the games, I feel like the trip helped us develop a lot of team chemistry on and off the court that will help us a lot as the season continues,” Tupper said.

Outside of the games, the team was able to spend some time doing fun activities around the island including going to different beaches, sightseeing, eating local cuisine and shopping.

The team also went to a local elementary school and played with the children, doing things such as watching television, giving the children piggyback rides, and of course, playing basketball.

“It was really cool to do something like that (visiting the school) and it was probably one of the highlights of the trip,” Tupper said.

Coach McKeithan said it was by far the best community service experience the team had done while he has been a coach at the school.

“It was a great opportunity for our guys to be around some great kids who truly enjoyed having them there and interacting with them on a personal level,” McKeithan said.

Even though the team dropped both their games in the Virgin Islands. McKeithan is hopeful this trip was extremely beneficial for the team.

“I think the trip brought us closer together as a team and also learn what it is going to take in order for us to be successful this year. We played against two really good teams, some of the best in the NAIA. Anytime you are playing against that level of competition it's going to make you better as a team,” McKeithan said. “I think if we can carry some learning lessons over the next few games we will be just fine.”

The team will look ahead to another exciting event, as they will be facing the University of Nebraska at Lincoln basketball team on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Tigers will travel to Pinnacle Bank Arena for the match.

Paulli said that he’s been looking forward to this game ever since they announced the matchup in the summer.

“I’m most excited to be able to play on this stage of basketball against some of the top athletes in the college game,” Paulli said. “I also can feel the energy around campus about the game which is an awesome feeling on behalf of the support that we have here at Doane.”

There will be a pre-game gathering and viewing party of the match at Gate 25 at the Railyard in downtown Lincoln. There will be a limited supply of free appetizers at 5:30 p.m. and the game will be streamed at the venue starting at 7 p.m.