2020 GPAC title rematch goes in DWU's favor

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 6, 2021 in Men's Basketball

MITCHELL, S.D. – In its first trip back to the Corn Palace since the memorable 2020 GPAC tournament championship game, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball program threatened the win streak of 18th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan on Wednesday (Jan. 6) night. Once again, the Tigers showed their level of comfort in these nitty-gritty GPAC affairs. Dakota Wesleyan remained unscathed inside conference play with a rugged 70-64 victory.

This battle wasn’t unlike the contest the Bulldogs won this past weekend, in overtime, at Northwestern. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad dipped to 11-6 overall and to 8-4 in GPAC games.

“Our effort was good, especially in the second half,” Limback said. “Ryan Holt on the glass provided a lot of hustle plays. All of our guys gave good effort defensively. It’s about the little things in a game like this against a team that’s at the top of our league. We have to be able to finish at the free throw line and we had some execution issues in the last two or three minutes. I was proud of our guys for the physical effort, but we’re going to have to improve on the little things and be sharper in those clutch moments.”

In the midst of some midseason shooting struggles, Concordia has had to try to get things done with tough defense and rebounding. Fifteen offensive boards had a role in the Bulldogs playing the Tigers to a 60-60 deadlock through 38 minutes of action. A Concordia field goal drought of more than five minutes late in the game provided the opening DWU needed. The home team made 6-of-6 attempts from the free throw line in the final 30 seconds to lock it up.

Justin Wiersema carried the torch for the Bulldogs on the offensive end. He put home a team high 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the floor. Unfortunately, Concordia shot only 35.5 percent as a team and was 8-for-32 from beyond the arc. The Tigers have a way of gumming up their opponents having entered the night ranked No. 1 in the GPAC in field goal percentage defense (.411).

Coach Matt Wilber rode his starting five for most of the night. The Bulldogs struggled to contain Jeffrey Schuch (20 points on 9-for-13 shooting) on the interior. Star guard Nick Harden posted 17 points, five assists and four steals while reigning GPAC Player of the Week Koln Oppold added 14 points and seven rebounds. Dakota Wesleyan (13-1, 9-0 GPAC) has won 13-straight games since losing its season opener.

Carter Kent (currently at 993 career points) joined Wiersema in double figures with 13 points (3-for-15 from the field). Holt snared 10 rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Gage Smith also contributed seven points and seven rebounds. Off the bench, Thomas Young canned a pair of treys.

Said Limback, “We had some great spurts. We got down double digits (55-45) in the second half and fought our way back in. Against the best of the best in the league, I feel like we’re right there. We want to push it over the top. Our goal is to win each day. We have to find our shooting confidence and get our rhythm back from 3-point range. We have to also tighten up some things execution-wise at the end of games. It all starts tomorrow with our focus at practice.”

After a long wait, the Bulldogs will finally be back at home when action tips off on Saturday. Jamestown (11-3, 7-2 GPAC) will serve as the opponent with game time at 4 p.m. CT inside Friedrich Arena. In this season’s first meeting, Concordia fell in overtime, 89-87, in Jamestown on Dec. 18. The Bulldogs have won 11 home games in a row.