By Taylor Mueller
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – In its final regular-season game of the year, the Concordia University men’s basketball squad fell just short of an upset with a 90-84 defeat at the hands of seventh-ranked Morningside in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon.
Second-year head coach Ben Limback’s bunch closes the regular-season with records of 16-14 overall and 9-11 in conference play. Concordia has guaranteed a winning season and will enter the GPAC tournament as the No. 7 seed.
On Saturday the Bulldogs were hot out of the gates as freshman Eli Ziegler and junior Roby Thomas connected on back-to-back-to-back treys, giving Concordia an early 9-6 advantage. The 3-point shooting was certainly not lacking for the Bulldogs, who went on to shoot 52 percent from three point land on the day, with contributions from seven different team members.
Despite the hot shooting, Morningside (25-3, 17-3 GPAC) pulled ahead to build a nine-point lead with 6:53 to go in the first half. The Bulldogs battled back, however, behind seven points from junior Micah Kohlwey and a 3-point buzzer beater by Kevin White, who heaved the ball off the backboard from just inside half court. The Mustangs led 43-41 at the break.
Just 12 seconds into the second half, Thomas connected on another 3-point bucket to spark a 22-14 Bulldog run. Despite a few Mustang attempts to regain momentum, the Bulldogs held a nine point lead with 9:42 remaining in the game. A free throw and two three-pointers later, however, the Mustangs were back within striking distance as the Concordia lead shriveled to two points. The opponents traded baskets until just 50 seconds remained in the game, when Morningside took a two point lead for the first time since the 18:34 mark of the second half. Morningside knocked in eight clutch free throws to seal the deal.
“In the second half we controlled the game,” head coach Ben Limback said. “We did a good job of attacking offensively and our defense forced them to miss some shots. I liked our offense. We want more touches for Chandler (Folkerts) but we did a nice job getting open looks. Offensively we’ve got four-five-six guys every night who are aggressive and attacking. We’re definitely at a much different confidence level now.”
Leading the Bulldog charge was Thomas with 17 points, four assists and six rebounds. Folkerts added 16 points while Kohlwey and senior Joel Haywood added 12 and 14 points, respectively, and six rebounds apiece.
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs are maintaining their focus on the journey that has yet to end, as they prepare for conference tournament action and a Wednesday trip to Mitchell, S.D., to take on fifth-ranked Dakota Wesleyan (27-3, 17-3 GPAC), which shared the GPAC regular-season title with Morningside. Tipoff for the GPAC quarterfinal game is set for 7 p.m.
“We’re playing our best basketball at the right time,” Limback said. “We’ve made progress. We’re not going to just settle with making the conference tournament. We want to continue to push for a GPAC championship. Morningside had a lot riding on this game with a chance to win the conference. We have a confident group right now. We definitely aren’t hanging our heads. We’re expecting greatness in the conference tournament.”