SEWARD, Neb. – A week after claiming a signature win over No. 10 Jamestown, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team enters this week with an opportunity to make another statement. The Bulldogs are preparing to play at No. 22 Morningside on Wednesday and then host Northwestern on Saturday. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad (8-1, 3-1 GPAC) has won three-straight conference outings since suffering its only defeat of the season. Both opponents this week were picked in the top four of the GPAC preseason poll.
By the numbers
· Concordia made a splash last week when it ended the victory over Jamestown with a 22-6 run that left the final score at 92-76. It marked the program’s first win over a top-10 opponent since edging then ninth-ranked Benedictine College (Kan.), 66-65, on Nov. 2, 2019. The latest triumph just might push the Bulldogs back into the NAIA top 25 for the first time since the 2010-11 season when they landed at No. 20. In the most recent poll (Nov. 17), Concordia was listed among others receiving votes (tied for 32nd). During Limback’s tenure, the Bulldogs finished as a “receiving votes” team following the 2016-17 and 2019-20 seasons. The 2019-20 team won the GPAC tournament and qualified for the national tournament.
· Laurel, Neb., native Noah Schutte has emerged as one of the great stories of the early season run. A reserve who played limited minutes in 2020-21, Schutte has now moved into a starting role and has capitalized. In back-to-back games – wins over Dordt and No. 10 Jamestown – Schutte has reset his career high by going for 21 points and then 27 points. Schutte piled up 27 versus Jamestown while making 9-of-19 shots from the field and 5-of-5 shots from the foul line. He’s now averaging 12.9 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 49.4 percent from the field. During an impressive high school career, Schutte notched more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and led Laurel-Concord-Coleridge High School to a Nebraska Class D1 state championship.
· Concordia has really made life difficult on visitors to Friedrich Arena. The Bulldogs are 21-1 over their past 22 games played at home and currently own an eight-game home win streak. Many of the games played at Friedrich Arena during the aforementioned 22-game stretch have not been competitive. Of the 16 home victories occurring since the start of the 2020-21 season, 14 have come by double-digit margins. The only team to win inside Friedrich Arena since late January of 2020 has been Morningside. In other words, every team in the GPAC other than Morningside has lost its most recent trip to Seward.
· Schutte’s emergence has made the Bulldogs an even more lethal team. All five starters are averaging in double figures: Carter Kent (14.9), Justin Wiersema (14.8), Gage Smith (14.1), Schutte (12.9) and AJ Watson (10.3). From a career perspective, both Kent (1,279) and Wiersema (1,029) have both eclipsed 1,000 points. In the win over Jamestown, three teammates joined Schutte in double figures: Smith (16), Kent (15) and Wiersema (12). In the 87-70 exhibition loss at NCAA Division II Rockhurst University (Mo.) on Nov. 27, Wiersema went off for 30 points while Watson posted 21 points in his hometown of Kansas City.
· At 8-1, Concordia has equaled the best nine-game start to a season during Limback’s tenure. Last season’s team also stood at 8-1 thanks to an eight-game winning streak that followed a season opening loss to Tabor College (Kan.). The program hasn’t started out 9-1 in the first 10 games since the 2008-09 campaign. That particular team got to 10-1 before suffering its second defeat (finished at 20-12 overall). The high-water mark for wins in a season since Limback took over in 2013-14 is 24 by the 2019-20 national qualifying squad.
Morningside has had Concordia’s number, winning 11-straight series meetings. The Bulldogs have not beaten the Mustangs since sweeping two regular-season matchups during the 2015-16 campaign. Morningside has a first-year head coach this season in Trent Miller, who takes over from Jim Sykes, now the school’s Athletics Director. Miller has plenty of talent to work with thanks to a roster that features big man Trey Brown (17.0 ppg and 11.3 rpg). The Mustangs have been sharp in conference play, defeating Dakota Wesleyan, Dordt and Doane all by double-digit margins. Wednesday will be a return to the alma mater for Concordia assistant coach Ryan Tegtmeier, who piled up 1,349 points in his Morningside career.
Northwestern has been a consistent force while under the direction of 22-year Head Coach Kris Korver. The Red Raiders are 8-2 overall this season with the two defeats occurring during Thanksgiving week (Midland and Peru State College). The Bulldogs already dealt with one of the nation’s top big men in Mason Walters and now will get Brown and Northwestern star Alex Van Kalsbeek (22.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg) in the same week. Meanwhile, Trent Hilbrands (17.7 ppg, .392 3-pt FG%) provides scoring from the perimeter. Concordia has managed to win five-straight meetings over the Red Raiders.
The Bulldogs will host Mount Marty on Dec. 8 and then play at Hastings on Dec. 11. Those two outings will be the final GPAC contests prior to New Year's Day.