Bulldogs bring Miami heat back home

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 5, 2017 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s basketball team is trending up. Over their last three games, the Bulldogs have now posted two road victories over top-25 teams (both in Miami) and a triumph over the defending GPAC champions. In a get-over-the-hump win, Concordia made all the plays in crunch time to pull out an 87-79 win over visiting Briar Cliff on Wednesday night.

Confidence is soaring for fourth-year head coach Ben Limback’s bunch, which has impressively gone 4-2 through a six-game stretch that has included five ranked opponents and another on the very edge of the national rankings. The Bulldogs have improved to 10-6 overall and to 3-5 in league play.

“It was a gutsy performance by our guys,” Limback said. “I’m really proud of the way we executed. I really loved our defensive effort down the stretch with some deflections and rebounds in key situations. Then you have to make your free throws. It was a big win. We needed to get back into conference and keep playing well.”

Wednesday’s result halted two win streaks for Briar Cliff – a five-game overall streak and a 13-game streak in the series with the Bulldogs. The Chargers (13-5, 4-2 GPAC) had also triumphed in each of their last four GPAC outings.

But on this night, Concordia showed the growth of its program, ending the game on a 10-0 run that erased a 79-77 deficit with 3:18 left in the game. With the Bulldogs down two, star post Chandler Folkerts got busy in the lane by rattling off the next four points. Eli Ziegler took it from there. He went for four of the final six points, adding a cherry on top with a breakaway layup in the final seconds.

Folkerts and Ziegler were again a formidable inside-outside combo. Folkerts, who totaled a game high 29 points to go with eight rebounds and three blocked shots, made 10-of-12 shots from the floor and 9-of-11 free throw attempts. After being held to six points in the first half, Ziegler went off in the second and finished with 21 points. He drained two treys late in the second half on back-to-back possessions. Both of which allowed Concordia to retake the lead.

The Bulldogs have already had their share of close-call losses in conference play. They’re fed up with them.

“It’s huge. We’ve had so many close games,” Folkerts said. “We played well down the stretch and took care of the lead. It was awesome. This is going to be really good for us going forward.”

If not for foul trouble, Folkerts would have likely had an even bigger night against a Briar Cliff squad that had no answer inside. The reigning GPAC player of the week needed only 23 minutes to pile up his 29 points.

There were also the big second-half triples from freshman Tanner Shuck (11 points, five assists). The nation’s leading 3-point shooting team by percentage, Concordia went only 1-for-7 from long range in the opening 20 minutes before heating up with 5-for-11 3-point shooting in the second half.

While the Bulldogs got hot, Briar Cliff cooled down, from 51.7 percent in the first half to 39.4 in the second. “It’s nice to see that defense come out,” Limback said.

Ziegler also dropped seven dimes and came up with five rebounds. He did not commit a single turnover in 34 minutes. On the flip side, the Chargers were paced by Erich Erdman’s 20 points. He was one of four double-figure scorers for Briar Cliff.

A busy weekend awaits the Bulldogs, who will trek to Dordt (9-9, 0-6 GPAC) for a 7 p.m. CT tipoff on Friday. The Defenders remain in search of their first GPAC victory of the campaign. Concordia will then quickly turn around and host Oglala Lakota College (S.D.) at 4:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Bravehearts have fallen at the hands of two other GPAC teams this season – Dakota Wesleyan and Midland.