Bulldogs throttle Marian, lock up trip to KC

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 12, 2022 in Men's Basketball

OMAHA, Neb. – It’s not supposed to look that easy on the national stage. This Concordia University Men’s Basketball team is just playing that well. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs shell-shocked fourth-seeded Marian University (Ind.) on Saturday (March 12) behind an offensive attack that operated like a well-oiled machine. Six Concordia players tallied nine or more points while throttling the Knights, 90-67, inside DJ Sokol Arena in Omaha, Neb., where Bulldog fans made if feel like Friedrich Arena East at the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship round of 32.

Head Coach Ben Limback has his squad playing beautiful basketball at the perfect time. Concordia (27-6) breezed through the Omaha pod and will be headed to the national round of 16 in Kansas City, Mo.

“Out of the gates, it looked like the guys were on a mission,” Limback said. “Collectively as a group, they came out strong offensively and defensively. That was a really good Marian team, defensively especially. I thought we would struggle to score today. Noah (Schutte) got us off to a great start and it just kind of snowballed from there. They went zone and then Carter (Kent) started to get into a rhythm.

“I don’t even have words for it. We thought we were going to have a fight today. I know they had a couple injuries but man, that was a really good win.”

Ranked 12th in the NAIA in the most recent coaches’ poll, Marian (26-6) got blindsided on Saturday. Concordia had all of its pieces working in near perfect harmony. While Schutte and Gage Smith had their way in the paint, Kent got loose for five 3-point field goals and the Bulldogs drained 13-of-26 shots from long range overall. Behind another strong crowd of supporters, Concordia bolted out to a 15-2 lead and never looked back. The Knights failed to cut the deficit any smaller than 17 points over the entire second half.

Schutte wound up pacing the team with 20 points while Kent finished with 19, Gage Smith added 16, Justin Wiersema notched 11 and Sam Scarpelli and AJ Watson produced nine apiece. Smith was a beast inside with 16 rebounds and a pair of steals. Schutte emerged with perhaps the game’s biggest highlight reel play when he threw down a two-handed dunk over two defenders. In the backcourt, Watson set the tone and Scarpelli made the Knights pay by drilling three treys. Tristan Smith came off the bench and rejected three shots and had a sterling tip slam.

It all added up to a surprisingly lopsided win. Up 20 (46-26) at halftime, the Bulldogs already seemingly had the game in hand. They played another strong 20 minutes and added to a suddenly crowded trophy case with a piece of opening round championship hardware.

“It was awesome seeing all those fans out there and to see all of our hard work come to fruition,” Kent said. “To see it pay off is just awesome. It’s fun to enjoy that with your teammates. Marian is a great team so it was fun to go out and enjoy that moment.”

This will be one to marvel at for years to come. Concordia shot 51.9 percent (28-for-54) from the floor and held Marian to 37.9 percent (25-for-56) shooting. The Bulldogs also made 21-of-28 free throw attempts and owned a 41-32 advantage on the boards. It was Concordia Basketball at its finest.

Said Kent, “We shot the ball really well and I think we made those little plays and got the loose balls. We really focused on playing as a team and playing as a unit. We’ve been doing that all year. I think we’re clicking at the right time.”

Somewhat lost in the celebration was the fact that Kent moved up to No. 5 on the program’s all-time scoring list. The Crete High School product closed the night with 1,671 career points, which pushed him past Director of Athletics Devin Smith, who was on the call for 104.9 Max Country radio.

The Knights scraped by 13th-seeded Freed-Hardeman University (Tenn.), 66-64 on Friday. They got a team high 13 points from Christian Harvey on Saturday, but not nearly enough collective production to keep pace. Star guard Christian Stewart was held to 3-for-11 shooting.

Not since 1991 has the Concordia Men’s Basketball program played a national tournament game in Kansas City. The Bulldogs will be in the City of Fountains as part of the national round of 16 that begins next Thursday (March 17). The round of 16 game for Concordia will tip off at 7 p.m. CT on Friday, March 18 versus Indiana University Kokomo. All games from here on out will be played at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City. It will be a homecoming for Watson.