Bulldogs look to finish 2023 strong with visit to St. Ambrose

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 27, 2023 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Idle since playing two games at the Big Island Holiday Classic in Hilo, Hawaii, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team is gearing up for a trek across the state of Iowa. The Bulldogs will be headed to Davenport, Iowa, for a clash with St. Ambrose University on Saturday. Tipoff from Lohman Arena is slated for 2 p.m. CT. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad will enter the contest at 8-3 overall (4-2 GPAC). Concordia has won five of its last six outings and will carry a four-game GPAC win streak into the year 2024.

This Week

Saturday, Dec. 30 at St. Ambrose (6-6), 2 p.m. CT
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Lee Lohman Arena (Davenport, Iowa)

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This will be the first action for the Bulldogs since the Big Island Holiday Classic took place Dec. 17-18. As part of its stay on the island, Concordia dropped a 74-73 nailbiter to NCAA Division II San Francisco State University. The Bulldogs rebounded the next day with a 108-103 double overtime classic decision over NAIA No. 19 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.). The victory gave Concordia its first this season over a team currently ranked in the NAIA coaches’ poll. Over the two games in Hawaii, Tristan Smith tallied 46 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and four steals and was named to the all-classic team, as selected by the host institution, the University of Hawaii at Hilo. In addition, Noah Schutte produced two-game totals of 45 points, 17 rebounds and five assists while making 15-of-23 (.652) shots from the floor.

The group of freshmen continue to come along while complimenting the veterans in Brad Bennett, Schutte and Smith. Rookie Jaxon Stueve stepped into the starting lineup versus Olivet Nazarene and responded with 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the floor. Other freshmen who have factored into the rotation have included Hayden Frank, Tyler Harre, Brooks Kissinger and Brandt Van Dyke. Collectively, they’ve helped Concordia average 89.1 points per game, a figure that ranks 16th in the NAIA. The Bulldogs also rank in a tie for 21st nationally in field goal percentage (.510). A strong run of play over the next couple of weeks could put Concordia back on the national radar (in terms of the coaches’ poll). The Bulldogs are ranked as the NAIA’s No. 13 team by Massey Ratings.

Concordia Projected Starting Five
G – Brad Bennett, 6-1 (9.4)
G – Jaxon Stueve, 6-4 (3.9)
F – Lukas Helms, 6-6 (6.7)
F – Noah Schutte, 6-4 (22.3)
F – Tristan Smith, 6-5 (19.0)

The opponent

St. Ambrose has been led by Head Coach Ray Shovlain going back to the 1983-84 season. During that time, the Fighting Bees have qualified for the national tournament 10 times and reached the national semifinals in 2004. St. Ambrose stands at 6-6 on the season, showing significant improvement from the program’s 5-20 record in 2022-23. Three Bees average in double figures in scoring: Will Spriggs (12.7), Ignacio Dacunda (12.1) and Jake Friel (10.1). St. Ambrose competes as a member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, which is also home to Olivet Nazarene (Concordia’s most recent opponent). The Bees average 75.5 points per game and shoot 45.2 percent from the floor offensively. On the other end, they allow 73.0 points per game and 43.9 percent shooting.

St. Ambrose Projected Starting Five
G – Elgin Bowen Jr., 5-11 (6.1)
G – Jake Friel, 6-1 (10.1)
F – Atem Agot, 6-6 (8.3)
F – Guillermo Narbona, 6-6 (7.8)
F/C – Ryan Kenney, 6-7 (5.7)

Next week

GPAC play will resume in the new year as the Bulldogs look forward to a trip to Jamestown on Jan. 3 before hosting Dakota Wesleyan on Jan. 6.