SEWARD, Neb. – On paper, the Concordia University men’s basketball team’s most challenging regular-season game to date is looming on Friday. Currently in a three-way tie for first place atop the GPAC standings, the Bulldogs face a road trip to play 11th-ranked Northwestern (11-2, 3-2 GPAC) in Orange City, Iowa. Friday’s game is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. CT.
Head coach Ben Limback’s squad has already played at home for the final time in the month of December. Last week Concordia (9-2, 4-1 GPAC) improved to 5-0 at home this season by fending off rival Hastings, 81-75, behind 15 treys. The fourth win in a row overall pushed the Bulldogs up a notch to fifth in this week’s official conference rating. As a result, Concordia appeared among “others receiving votes” in the national coaches’ poll released on Tuesday. The program last cracked the top 25 in December of 2010. The last time it won at least 10 or more of its first 12 games was 2004-05, a campaign that saw it open up at 13-0.
One major reason for the program’s best 11-game start in nine years has been the improvement of its perimeter defense. After allowing 78.8 points per game and 46.1 percent shooting last season, the Bulldogs have limited their opponents to 73.8 points per contest and 43.4 percent shooting so far in 2016-17. Concordia ranks among the top three of the conference in both categories while also coming in at No. 1 in the GPAC in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.312). Offensively, the Bulldogs rely heavily upon the sophomore trio of Clay Reimers (16.9 ppg), Jake Hornick (16.7 ppg) and Tanner Shuck (14.2 ppg).
Prolific scoring guard Colton Kooima and his teammates will put Concordia’s perimeter defense to the test. The Red Raiders will enter the matchup ranked in the top 10 nationally in many major offensive categories, including first in free throw percentage (.839), third in field goal percentage (.526), fourth in scoring offense (95.8), fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (.423) and seventh in 3-point field goals per game (11.0). Kooima ranks eighth nationally with an average of 23.0 points per game. Wing Nathan Wedel went off for 46 points in an overtime win over Dordt and was named the NAIA Division II national player of the week on Tuesday. Northwestern slid back to No. 11 in the national rankings this week after a 9-0 start catapulted them to the No. 1 ranking.
Following Friday’s action, Concordia will wait two weeks before returning to action with a trek to Chicago for games against Robert Morris University (Dec. 29) and Judson University (Dec. 30).
Concordia (9-2, 4-1)
G – Jake Hornick: 16.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.0 spg, .531 fg%, .444 3-pt fg%, .857 ft%
G – Cordell Gillingham: 6.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, .438 fg%, .290 3-pt fg%
G – Tanner Shuck: 14.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, .486 fg%, .430 3-pt fg%, .750 ft%
F – Kyle Pierce: 10.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, .457 fg%, .450 3-pt fg%, .647 ft%
F – Clay Reimers: 16.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, .611 fg%, .700 ft%
Northwestern (11-2, 3-2)
G – Chris Borchers: 4.6 ppg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 rpg, .563 fg%
G – Colton Kooima: 23.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.0 spg, .475 fg%, .446 3-pt fg%, .893 ft%
G – Nathan Wedel: 19.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.8 spg, 1.1 spg, .627 fg%, .484 3-pt fg%, .862 ft%
F – Riley Francis: 13.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, .549 fg%, .370 3-pt fg%, .864 ft%
F – Steven Kragt: 2.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg, .452 fg%