Back to the Palace

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 20, 2017 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s basketball program got a monkey off its back on Feb. 12 when it defeated Dakota Wesleyan on the road for the first time in more than five years. Now the Bulldogs will attempt to duplicate that result and avoid the fate suffered by the 2014-15 and 2015-16 teams that saw their seasons end in Mitchell, S.D.

Wednesday’s GPAC tournament quarterfinal between sixth-seeded Concordia (21-9, 10-8 GPAC) and third-seeded Dakota Wesleyan (22-8, 13-5 GPAC) will tip off at 8 p.m. CT in Mitchell. The game can be seen live via Dakota Wesleyan’s Stretch Internet portal.

“Our guys are ready with all the work we’ve been putting in,” said head coach Ben Limback after his team wrapped up the regular season with a 99-71 win over Dordt. “We go against a great team again in Dakota Wesleyan. The last time we faced them it was a great game. That’s what we’re hoping for again on Wednesday.”

Winner of more than 20 games in a season for the first time since 2004-05, the Bulldogs hope to end another drought by simply advancing in the league tournament. They last won a conference postseason game in 2009 when they made a run to the championship game, which resulted in a Dakota Wesleyan 83-64 win.

Winning at the Palace, where the Tigers are 12-2 this season, is never easy, but Limback has his team peaking at the right time. Its only loss over the last 10 games was a wire-to-wire defeat at Briar Cliff, the GPAC regular-season champion. After the 109-106 heart stopper of an overtime win at Dakota Wesleyan, Concordia thrashed Hastings, 90-69, and Dordt, 99-71.

Behind one of the nation’s most efficient offensive attacks, the Bulldogs are riding high in the conference tournament.

“We’ve been playing pretty well lately,” said senior guard Eli Ziegler. “It’s fun to play with all these guys. It’s coming down to the wire, but I’m hoping we have a lot of games left.”

Concordia needs at least one win and possibly more to get itself into the conversation for a national tournament at-large bid. The GPAC tournament champion will earn an automatic bid to nationals. Should that happen to be Briar Cliff, then the runner up would receive the conference’s second automatic berth. The Bulldogs continue to seek their first national tournament appearance since they reached the national title game in 2005.

Concordia enters the postseason ranked No. 1 nationally in field goal percentage (.530). It also sports national rankings of second in 3-point field goal percentage (.418), sixth in free throw percentage (.774), 13th in 3-point field goals per game (9.9) and 17th in scoring offense (88.7). Individually, Chandler Folkerts is second among all NAIA Division II players in field goal percentage (.686). Tanner Shuck ranks 11th nationally in 3-point percentage (.477).

On the program’s all-time lists, Folkerts currently ranks second in rebounds (858), fourth in scoring (1,949) and fourth in blocked shots (142). He needs seven points to pass John Puelz (1,955) for third place on the scoring list. Folkerts had a career high 37 points in the overtime win over Dakota Wesleyan. Ziegler is up to No. 19 in school history with 1,179 career points.

Freshman Clay Reimers could one day join Folkerts and Ziegler in the 1,000-point club. Over the last seven games, Reimers has averaged 14.1 points and 6.4 rebounds. During that same stretch, the Lincoln East High School product has gone 38-for-50 (.760) from the floor. His surge has elevated his season averages to 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds. He has seen action in all 30 games.

On the flip side, Dakota Wesleyan ended a three-game losing streak with an 83-77 home win over 20th-ranked Northwestern in its Feb. 15 regular-season finale. The Tigers will have had a week off when the game tips off on Wednesday. Dakota Wesleyan also has a high-octane offense that averages 91.5 points (No. 5 in the nation). Though he ranks fourth on the team in scoring (14.5), Tate Martin is the team’s catalyst. He dishes out an average of 9.0 assists per game.

The winner of Wednesday’s game will advance to play in the conference semifinals on Saturday against either second-seeded Northwestern (23-6, 13-5 GPAC) or seventh-seeded Hastings (14-16, 8-10 GPAC).

Projected starters

Concordia: 21-9, 10-8 GPAC
G – Seth Curran: 8.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.6 rpg, 1.0 spg, .437 fg%, .359 3-pt fg%
G – Eli Ziegler: 16.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.0 spg, .491 fg%, .444 3-pt fg%, .795 ft%
G – Chris Johnstone: 9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, .468 fg%, .382 3-pt fg%
F – Tanner Shuck: 10.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, .495 fg%, .477 3-pt fg%
C – Chandler Folkerts: 18.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 0.9 spg, .686 fg%, .776 ft%

Dakota Wesleyan: 22-8, 13-5 GPAC
G – Tate Martin: 14.5 ppg, 9.0 apg, 2.5 rpg, .483 fg%, .391 3-pt fg%
G – Trae Vandeberg: 15.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .478 fg%, .406 3-pt fg%
G – Ty Hoglund: 18.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 spg, .547 fg%, .399 3-pt fg%
G – Nate Davis: 8.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, .469 fg%, .388 3-pt fg%
F – Jason Spicer: 21.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.0 bpg, .634 fg%