SEWARD, Neb. – The good vibrations are pulsating throughout the Concordia University men’s basketball locker room. Its best stretch of basketball this season continued on Wednesday (Jan. 16) with a 66-51 home victory over Midland. The Bulldogs trailed 36-34 at the half, but squeezed the life out of the Warriors in the second half in a game with a much calmer pace than the one played this past Saturday inside Walz Arena.
Sixth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad is hoping it has put things together in time to make something out of this season. Concordia is now 11-10 overall and 4-9 in conference play after claiming its third-straight GPAC win.
“I thought Midland did a great job in the first half not letting us get threes off them,” Limback said. “We were scoring, but we weren’t getting good looks from three. In the second half we started to get in transition a little more and open it up a little bit. When you hold a team to 15 points in a half you’re going to have a good chance to win. I love the way our defense came out in the second half.”
The second half was a complete domination by the Bulldogs, who outshot Midland over the final 20 minutes, 59.1 percent (13-for-22) to 24.0 percent (6-for-25). Concordia again played effective team basketball. Reigning GPAC Player of the Week Brevin Sloup was called upon to play all 40 minutes. He scored 14 points, dished out seven assists and committed just a single turnover.
Sloup’s productivity on the offensive end has been key in the current win streak. So too has been the insertion of freshman Justin Wiersema into the starting lineup. The rookie from Loveland, Colo., was fantastic again on Wednesday, contributing 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“The energy is just there now,” Wiersema said. “We’re all fitting together. We’re all coming together as a team. I think we’re all finding our roles and gaining confidence. We’re just playing well.”
Grant Wragge (11 points, four rebounds) played a starring role off the bench. Carter Kent also reached double figures (10) in the scoring column. In the post, Chuol Biel has made a huge difference from a defensive perspective. His line included eight points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. He also supplied the biggest highlight of the night when he hammered down a thunderous dunk over a leaping Warrior defender.
Midland (9-13, 4-9 GPAC) shot only 34.0 percent for the game. The Warriors did manage to build a seven-point lead in the first half during a stretch of hot shooting by Bowen Sandquist, who equaled Malik Martin for a team high 15 points. Midland had hoped to complete a regular-season sweep having clipped Concordia, 78-72, in Fremont on Nov. 6.
Considering where things stood at the end of play on Jan. 5, the transformation has been stunning for the Bulldogs. At that point they had dropped seven GPAC games in a row, with the latter three all decided by margins of 17 points or more. No one wanted to continue down that path. Wiersema is one of several Bulldogs who have changed the team’s fortunes.
“The first time I started I got to the locker room right before tipoff and I saw my name up on the board,” Wiersema said. “My heart just sank with excitement. I was so nervous coming out here, but I knew I needed to play my best and do what’s best for the team.”
The Bulldogs now get set for Friday’s bus ride to Jamestown, N.D., in preparation for Saturday’s 4 p.m. CST clash with the 21st-ranked Jimmies (18-4, 8-4 GPAC). Concordia will attempt to avenge a 74-61 home loss at the hands of Jamestown on Nov. 17. The Jimmies will enter the contest having won seven of their previous eight outings.