Bulldogs bounce back with 78-58 win at Grace

By on Jan. 24, 2015 in Men's Basketball

Bulldogs bounce back with 78-58 win at Grace

OMAHA, Neb. – Strong play away from home continued Saturday afternoon as the Concordia University men’s basketball team shook off a four-game losing streak. The Bulldogs used a 13-0 first-half run en route to a 78-58 victory at Grace University. The win avenged a 73-60 loss to the Royals (9-14) at the Cattle Classic on Nov. 7.

Second-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad moved back to .500 overall at 11-11. Concordia is 7-4 this season in road/neutral contests.

“Everyone knew we needed to have good practices after Wednesday night,” Limback said. “I thought we had a good practice Thursday. Our guys got after it and we had good mental preparation. You could tell we were more locked in today. To bounce back against an athletic team that beat us on our home court, I was pleased with it.”

Three days after suffering an 87-60 home loss to Hastings, Concordia responded with a much improved defensive effort. In the process of holding Grace to 32.8 percent shooting for the game, the Bulldogs built a 10-point lead (22-12) midway through the first half when freshman guard Rudy Knight drilled treys on back-to-back possessions.

Not long after, Concordia went on a game-defining 13-0 run that made it 35-16 late in the first half. Sophomore big Chandler Folkerts, who posted his GPAC-leading sixth double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds, combined with junior guard Micah Kohlwey for 11 points during the spurt that gave the Bulldogs complete control for the remainder of the game.

Unlike the first meeting back in November, Concordia kept Grace’s talented trio of Ayotunde Akinbote, Jarrod Sheffield and Hakeem Stewart in check. The first time around they combined for 54 points. On Saturday they were held to a total of 18 points while going a combined 6-for-24 from the floor.

“It was a priority for us to improve defensively,” Limback said. “I thought our mindset was much better and we talked better. We wanted to defend a lot better than we did the last three games and we did that.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs got contributions from all directions as seven different players tallied eight or more points. Knight led the way with 15 points (two shy of a career high). Folkerts and Robby Thomas (10 points) joined Knight in double figures. Senior Joel Haywood chipped in nine points, six assists and four rebounds and Justin Damme provided eight points and four boards off the bench.

“Our bench was great,” Limback said. “Rudy gave us a nice spark and did a lot of good things. It was a game where we wanted to be able to pound the ball inside and our guards played with confidence and stepped up. It was a pretty balanced attack.”

A 15-5 second half run gave the Bulldogs their largest lead, 75-46, with 3:29 left before the Royals ended the game on a 12-3 splurge. The significant point spread allowed Limback to use 12 different players. Nine of them registered in the scoring column.

Concordia also got a boost from its outside shooting. The Bulldogs went 11-for-25 (.440) from 3-point range. Six different players made at least one triple for Concordia. Knight went 3-for-5 from downtown and Haywood made both of his attempts from beyond the arc.

The Bulldogs return to conference play on Wednesday when they travel to play nearby rival Doane (9-14, 4-9 GPAC). Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. from Crete, Neb. In this season’s first meeting, the Tigers topped Concordia, 71-66, in Seward on Dec. 3. The road team has won each of the last three matchups in the series. Wednesday’s game is crucial for both team’s GPAC tournament berth aspirations. Concordia (5-9 GPAC) sits a half game in front of Doane for ninth place.