'NAIA Game of the Week' headlines Saturday slate

‘NAIA Game of the Week’ headlines Saturday slate

Saturday’s women’s basketball NAIA Game of the Week will be played at Walz Arena as No. 2 Concordia hosts No. 4 Morningside at 2 p.m. Check out the NAIA’s notes on this GPAC showdown HERE.

The Bulldog men’s basketball squad will look to get back into the win column as it follows immediately after the women in Seward.

Head coach Dana Vote’s grapplers, who were defeated by Briar Cliff (30-12) on Thursday night, will get back to the mat on Saturday at the Quality Hotel Open hosted by Hastings College. Below is a full preview of Saturday’s action.

Wrestling: Concordia at Quality Hotel Open, Hastings, Neb., 9 a.m.

Outlook: The Bulldogs hope to build upon the four individual victories they captured in Thursday night’s GPAC-opening dual loss to Briar Cliff at Walz Arena as they enter their fourth tournament open of the season. “Hastings is a tough tournament, right after Christmas,” Vote said. “I know the University of Nebraska brings some of their backup guys, Kearney usually has some guys there and then there’s some tough conference schools there. There’s definitely going to be some tough matches, but we’ve got to continue to compete. It’s a tough month of January.” Senior heavyweight Frank Ayala tops Concordia with three tournament placements this season. Senior Brandon Starkey (149/157) and junior Alex Stepanek (133/141) have both placed at two tournaments while Seth Crane (184) has a fourth place finish at the Swede Open to his credit. Stepanek’s 13 wins this season lead the Bulldogs while freshman Austin Starkey (157/165) owns the best winning percentage with an 11-8 (.579) mark. In the team’s most recent open – the Buena Vista Open on Dec. 8 – Concordia had three individuals claim top-six finishes.

Women’s Basketball: No. 4 Morningside (16-3, 8-2 GPAC) at No. 2 Concordia (16-1, 9-1 GPAC), 2 p.m.

Live Webcast | Live Stats

Opponent: Fourth-ranked Morningside sits in second place in the GPAC standings, a single game behind first-place Concordia. The Mustangs are coming off an upset loss on their home court to Mount Marty by a score of 77-68 on Wednesday. That loss halted a five-game winning streak that included a 77-71 victory over then No. 6 Briar Cliff on Jan. 5. Head coach Jamie Sale (306-94 in 12 seasons at Morningside) employs a system similar to Concordia’s in that it stresses up-tempo, 3-point-oriented offense and full court pressure on defense. With an average of 9.0 triples per game (171 in 19 games), the Mustangs are the only GPAC team that knocks down more 3-pointers than Concordia. Morningside is fifth in the league in scoring offense (72.2 ppg) and first in scoring defense (59.7 ppg). Also like Concordia, Morningside causes lots of turnovers as evidenced by its 214 steals, 16th most in the NAIA Division II. Sale’s squad is built around stars Chelsie Trask (5-foot-9 senior guard) and Ashlynn Muhl (6-foot sophomore forward). Trask, a first team All-American last season, tops the team with 14.4 points per game while shooting 42.7 (44-for-103) percent from beyond the arc. Muhl comes in next with 11.2 points per contest and leads the team in rebounding at 7.3 per game.

Outlook: Saturday’s contest between the GPAC’s two highest-rated teams was voted as the ‘NAIA Game of the Week’ in a Facebook fan poll and is a rematch of a Dec. 1 battle that Concordia won 80-76 in Sioux City, Iowa. The Bulldogs have won 21-straight home games and three-straight in the series versus Morningside. Concordia has also been victorious in 24 of its last 25 games against GPAC opponents with the only loss during that stretch being the 96-86 double overtime upset at Dordt on Jan. 5. Saturday’s big matchup pits like-minded programs that have enjoyed success on the national stage in recent seasons. The Bulldogs are 5-0 this season against ranked opponents and 16-3 the last two seasons when facing top 25 competition. Head coach Drew Olson’s squad is second in NAIA Division II in steals per game (18.5), second in turnover margin (plus-10.8) and third in scoring margin (plus-24.1). Terrific backcourt mates Kristen Conahan (14.8 ppg) and Bailey Morris (14.9 ppg) have been jockeying for the team scoring lead. With significant GPAC title implications on the line, Saturday’s afternoon tilt figures to be energetic, intense and fast paced.

Men’s Basketball: Morningside (9-11, 4-6 GPAC) at Concordia (5-11, 2-8 GPAC), 4 p.m.

Live Webcast | Live Stats

Opponent: Morningside ended a five-game conference losing streak by scoring an 88-66 victory over Mount Marty on Wednesday night. The Mustangs, who are 3-8 this season in road games, boast the GPAC’s top scorer in 6-foot-3 junior guard Danny Rudeen. The Sioux City native is one of the top marksmen in the conference with shooting percentages of 50.2 (133-for-265) from the field, 38.2 (42-for-110) from 3-point range and 84.4 (65-for-77) from the free throw line. Ninth-year head coach Jim Sykes has compiled a record of 183-105 (.635) for the top winning percentage in school history. Junior guard Tanner Ferguson teams with Rudeen to give the Mustangs a potent shooting combo from the outside. Fergson ranks second on the squad with 10.5 points per game, thanks mostly to his 41.2 percent (47-for-114) clip from 3-point range. Guards Trent Miller and Tanner Miller rank 1-2 in the GPAC in steals with 2.56 and 2.37 per game, respectively. As a team, Morningside is eighth in the league in scoring offense (75.9 ppg) and 10th in scoring defense (75.5 ppg). The Mustangs are first in steals per game (9.75) and turnover margin (plus-3.9) and second in 3-point field goals per game (8.6).

Outlook: The Bulldogs must do a better job of containing Morningside’s perimeter shooters in order to claim their third GPAC victory. The Mustangs shot 13-for-28 from long range and ran away with an 87-70 win over Concordia in Sioux City, Iowa, on Dec. 1. Ferguson got loose for a game high 27 points on 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc. Morningside won by a score of 77-71 in last season’s meeting in Seward and has won three-straight games in the series with Concordia. Head coach Marty Kohlwey’s squad is 3-5 this season at Walz Arena and has lost 10-consecutive games overall, including eight in a row within the conference. Concordia needs to improve its rankings of ninth in the league in scoring offense (73.3 ppg) and 11th in scoring defense (78.6 ppg) in its efforts to climb back up the league standings. The Bulldogs have gotten nice contributions from freshmen Max Wegener (10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds per game over last three contests) and Robby Thomas (two blocks in first career start on Wednesday) of late. Their energy will be a key on Saturday.

11 January 2013

With 169 votes, No. 2 Concordia vs. No. 4 Morningside earned the title of "NAIA Women's Basketball Game of the Week." Saturday's game between the top two teams in the GPAC will get underway at 2 p.m. inside Walz Arena.

Frank Ayala