Bulldogs bounced by LSU-Shreveport in conclusion to GPAC championship season

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 16, 2024 in Men's Basketball

SALINA, Kan. – The eyeball test from the first round of the NAIA National Championship tournament told the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team a lot. The matchup with 12th-seeded Louisiana State University-Shreveport was going to be a bear. The Pilots soared past the Bulldogs, 91-67, in the national tournament second round clash played inside Mabee Arena in Salina, Kan., on Saturday (March 16). LSU-Shreveport torched the nets while shooting a blistering 60.3 percent from the floor.

Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad advanced to the second round by edging No. 13 seed Indiana University Northwest, 83-81, on Friday. One win shy of a trip to Kansas City, Concordia has concluded the season at 24-8 overall.

“We didn’t do much to provide resistance in the first five minutes,” Limback said. “They had a lot of momentum from the night before. They just carried that into our game. They were taking some tough pull-ups – we just weren’t able to hang with them. We started to panic a little bit and the lead got over 20 in the first half. They were just too good for us to overcome in the second half.”

The Bulldogs were blitzed from the opening tip. They never owned a lead all evening and faced a double-digit deficit less than four minutes into the game. LSU-Shreveport (24-8) seemingly got any look it wanted while making 35-of-58 shots from the floor. Five Pilots reached double figures, including game high scorer Tyler Washington with 19 points. There was no drama needed one day after LSU-Shreveport defeated pod host Kansas Wesleyan University in overtime. A 7-0 run for the Pilots heading into halftime made it 55-34 and sunk what chances Concordia may have had.

Off the bench, senior Joel Baker let it fly for the Bulldogs. He notched a career-high 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting from long range. Brad Bennett (13 points) also connected on four attempts from beyond the arc. Noah Schutte (13) and Tristan Smith (11) were the other double-figure scorers for Concordia. The Laurel, Neb., native Schutte became the first player in program history to score 30 points in a national tournament game when he posted 31 in Friday’s win.

The 39.0 percent (23-for-59) shooting for the Bulldogs on Saturday wasn’t nearly efficient enough to keep pace with LSU-Shreveport. The defeat stings in the immediate aftermath, but Concordia will have plenty of positive emotions regarding the 2023-24 season as time passes. The accomplishments this season included a No. 20 NAIA national ranking, a share of the GPAC regular season title, a CIT championship and 24 overall wins.

Said Limback, “It’s tough. Nothing went right today, but you have to forget about it and focus on the body of work and focus on the seniors. This was a challenging year. We had a lot of guys who played minutes and rotated starting spots. These guys bought in. They wanted to play at the national tournament and they wanted to get to Kansas City. Our seniors got everyone to buy in. They handled it like champs. It’s really hard to get to that next step. I think our young guys will feed off the taste they got at the national tournament.”

In addition to shooting the lights out, LSU-Shreveport also owned the boards, 36-25. The Pilots are making their 19th all-time national tournament appearance out of the Red River Athletic Conference.

As part of senior day, Concordia honored Baker, Schutte and Trey Scheef. A top five scorer in program history, Schutte is mulling a possible return for a fifth year in 2024-25. The expectation will be to return to the national tournament as the Bulldogs bring back veterans in Bennett and Smith and a host of young players who grew considerably this winter.