SEWARD, Neb. – The guy that watched last year’s national tournament run while hobbling around in crutches has announced his presence with authority. With the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team teetering on the brink of a home defeat, Brad Bennett came to the rescue and scorched the nets with eight 3-point field goals. His final triple splashed home in the closing minute and put a dagger in visiting Ottawa University (Kan.). The Bulldogs rallied from seven points down in the second half to win, 86-82, in the wrap-up contest to the 23rd annual Cattle Classic on Saturday (Nov. 5).
Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad showed some resilience one day after drubbing Tabor College (Kan.), 88-52. Bennett’s hot shooting and a switch to some zone defensive looks helped Concordia survive and get to 2-0.
“The adversity we faced was something that was good for us,” Limback said. “We needed to be in a battle. We knew coming in that they were going to be a good, well-coached team. Brad Bennett – what a game he had. I’m really proud of him continuing to stay in it. Noah (Schutte) made some big plays down the stretch with free throws. It was a great lesson for our team. Every team we play will be hungry to play us. We can’t take anything for granted.”
A prideful program that defeated the Bulldogs at the 2020 national tournament (just before the COVID shutdown), Ottawa looked poised to bounce back from its blowout loss to Hastings on Friday. The Braves enjoyed a 71-64 lead with fewer than seven minutes to go. They just didn’t have an answer for Bennett, who dropped in treys at the 4:52, 3:36 and 0:37 marks when Concordia had to have buckets. His trey in the last minute boosted the Bulldog lead to 82-78.
While Bennett finished with 24 points (8-for-9 from 3-point range), teammate Noah Schutte led all players with 26 points. He went 12-for-13 from the foul line and grabbed seven rebounds. Schutte made all four of his free throws in the last minute to help seal the victory. Limback admitted afterwards that it felt like Ottawa had outplayed his team.
But the marksmanship of Bennett is a true X-factor that can cover up mistakes. He’s taking advantage of an increased role while helping stretch the floor for an already terrific frontcourt. Said Limback of Bennett, “He’s an important part in a lot of ways. He’s the most humble kid you’ll ever meet. He’s a hard worker and his IQ is really high. He battled back all summer to get to this point. I’m just so proud of him. He faced all that adversity and now he’s in this position. What a special night for him.”
Said Bennett, “My teammates were finding me in open spots. I was catching it in good rhythm and just knocking it down. All props to my teammates … I just prepare myself every day, going in the gym and working. We know it’s a collective effort. It’s going to be someone different every night.”
Gage Smith again cleaned up inside with 14 rebounds, to go along with eight points. Point guard AJ Watson contributed five points, seven assists and two steals. Concordia shot 48.2 percent (27-for-56) from the floor while draining 13 treys (including two from Schutte).
Meanwhile, the Braves (2-2) shot 46.0 percent (29-for-63) from the field and got a team high 17 points from Elijah Mason. Ottawa held a lead (78-77) as late as the 1:25 mark. The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference member helped its cause by going 20-for-23 from the charity stripe.
The GPAC opener is up next. In a matchup of teams that shared the 2021-22 GPAC regular season title, the Bulldogs will take on Briar Cliff (2-1) at the Newman Flanagan Center in Sioux City, Iowa, next Saturday (Nov. 5) with tipoff at 4 p.m. CT. The two sides split last season’s regular season matchups. The most recent one featured Tristan Smith’s game-winning layup at the buzzer.
2022 All-Cattle Classic Men’s Team
Brad Bennett, Concordia
Elijah Mason, Ottawa
Thatcher McClure, Tabor
Noah Schutte, Concordia
Reggie Thomas, Hastings