SEWARD, Neb. – The 2016 calendar year could not have ended any better for the Concordia University men’s basketball team, which last week went to Miami and defeated both No. 22 Florida Memorial University and No. 21 St. Thomas University on the road. Concordia now has momentum and owns four victories over nationally-ranked opponents as it opens this week by hosting Briar Cliff at 8 p.m. CT on Wednesday as part of Fan Appreciation Day (free admission for all fans).
The Bulldogs will also be at Dordt for a 7 p.m. CT start time on Friday in a rescheduled affair that had originally been slated for Dec. 16. Then on Saturday, Concordia welcomes Oglala Lakota College (S.D.) for a 4:30 p.m. CT contest inside Walz Arena. The first two games of the week will be carried live by 104.9 Max Country. Both home contests can be seen live via the Concordia Sports Network.
Fourth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad has been a monster outside of conference play. It is 8-1 with three victories over top-25 foes (No. 17 York College, No. 21 St. Thomas and No. 22 Florida Memorial) in non-league games. Now the Bulldogs will attempt to carry over that level of play to Wednesday’s tilt with defending GPAC champion Briar Cliff. Concordia has been close to getting over the hump, having dropped four of its five GPAC losses by margins of four points or fewer.
Walz Arena has been a difficult place for opponents to emerge from with victories. Concordia is 6-1 at home and has nine of its last 10 home games dating back to the end of last season. The only defeat during that stretch was a 93-89 overtime heartbreaker to first-place Northwestern, now ranked fourth in NAIA Division II. No. 12 Dakota Wesleyan suffered its only GPAC loss so far in Seward.
Concordia has been rolling offensively while following the lead of three prolific scorers. Consider the scoring averages of the following three players over the past four games: Eli Ziegler (22.8), Chandler Folkerts (19.3) and Tanner Shuck (18.3). Ziegler has knocked down at least five 3-point field goals in four-straight games. With 952 career points, Ziegler is knocking on the door the program’s 1,000-point club, which currently includes 28 members. Ziegler and company lead the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (.442).
One of those 1,000-point club members is Folkerts, who owns all-time school ranks of fourth in points (1,686), fourth in blocked shots (123) and fifth in rebounds (730). Last week he leapfrogged Director of Athletics Devin Smith ’92 on both the scoring and rebounding lists. An honorable mention All-America choice last season, Folkerts has averaged 16.1 points and has shot 64.7 percent from the floor over 105 career games.
Since a 92-73 loss at Bellevue University on Dec. 6, Briar Cliff (13-4, 4-2 GPAC) has looked more like the conference preseason favorite that it was. The Chargers have rattled off five-straight wins, including an impressive 84-66 win at No. 16 Midland. Briar Cliff also shoots at a high volume from the outside and ranks fifth nationally in 3-point field goals per game (11.3). Erich Erdman (41-for-100) and Bryan Forbes (37-for-106) won’t be afraid to pull the trigger from long range.
Dordt (8-9, 0-6 GPAC) has endured a run tough luck in conference play despite the presence of star junior forward Dalton Franken (17.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg), who has sat out the previous two games. Like many GPAC teams, the Defenders can score. They rank 18th nationally with a scoring average of 88.7 points per game. They topped the century mark in recent non-conference wins over Oak Hills Christian College (113-69) and Mayville State University (N.D.) (107-75).
Oglala Lakota College, located in Kyle, S.D., has lost both of the games it has played against GPAC teams. It fell, 124-52, to Midland and by a score of 128-84 to Dakota Wesleyan.
Concordia: 9-6, 2-5 GPAC
G – Seth Curran: 8.7 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.7 rpg, .451 fg%, .404 3-pt fg%
G – Eli Ziegler: 18.1 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.9 rpg, .526 fg%, .496 3-pt fg%
G – Jake Hornick: 4.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.1 spg, .385 fg%
F – Tanner Shuck: 11.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, .566 fg%, .541 3-pt fg%
C – Chandler Folkerts: 19.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 0.9 spg, .679 fg%
Briar Cliff: 13-4, 4-2 GPAC
G – Shane Graves: 9.6 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.5 rpg, 1.0 spg, .453 fg%
G – Erich Erdman: 18.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, .471 fg%, .410 3-pt fg%
G – Jay Wolfe: 9.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.4 spg, .432 fg%, .382 3-pt fg%
G – Bryan Forbes: 17.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.6 spg, .425 fg%, .349 3-pt fg%
F – Jordan Eisma: 8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, .621 fg%, .688 ft%
Dordt: 8-9, 0-6 GPAC
G – Andrew O’Donnell: 7.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.2 spg, .442 fg%
G – Chad Barkema: 4.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.8 spg, .529 fg%, .714 ft%
G – Alec Henrickson: 14.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, .413 fg%, .473 3-pt fg%
G – Marcus Winterfeld: 8.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, .540 fg%, .469 3-pt fg%
F – Taylor Feenstra: 8.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, .568 fg%, .750 ft%