Bulldogs to tip off 2023 with return to GPAC play

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 2, 2023 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Coming off a road swing into Sooner Athletic Conference territory, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team has returned to the GPAC footprint for a pair of conference games this week. In last week's action, the Bulldogs won at Texas Wesleyan University, 81-74, and then endured a 76-66 loss at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma. Those results leave Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad at 10-5 overall (6-3 GPAC) just over halfway through the regular season. Eleven of the final 13 contests in the regular season will be played within the league.

NOTE: Inclement weather is expected to impact the area this week. Please follow @CUNEathletics on Twitter and be sure to check the website schedule for potential changes to game dates and/or times.

This Week

Thursday, Jan. 5 at Mount Marty (5-11, 2-7 GPAC), 6:45 p.m.
--Live Webcast | | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Cimpl Arena (Yankton, S.D.)

Saturday, Jan. 7 vs. Dakota Wesleyan (7-7, 3-3 GPAC), 3:45 p.m.
--Live Webcast/Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

By the numbers

·        Fifteen of 28 regular season games on the slate are in the books for Concordia as the calendar moves to 2023. Six nonconference games have been played with the Bulldogs having defeated Tabor College (Kan.), Ottawa University (Kan.), Waldorf University (Iowa) and Texas Wesleyan. Though early to mention the GPAC standings, Concordia currently resides in fourth place behind three teams that are 5-2 in conference play: Dordt, Hastings and Morningside. The most recent NAIA coaches’ poll (released on Dec. 14) saw the Bulldogs land as the first team outside of the top 25. Massey Ratings currently lists Concordia as the NAIA’s 19th best team with a strength of schedule ranked 20th.

·        A contest the Bulldogs led by a 33-18 score in the middle of the first half turned into a nail-biter down the stretch at Texas Wesleyan. The Rams (6-6) rallied to tie the game with fewer than four minutes remaining. They just didn’t have an answer for Noah Schutte, who powered in a career high 32 points on 13-for-17 shooting from the floor and 6-for-7 shooting from the foul line. Schutte’s steal and layup in the closing two minutes helped seal the 81-74 victory. Concordia shot 57.7 percent from the floor and also got double-figure scoring outputs from Tristan Smith (17) and AJ Watson (11). Meanwhile, Gage Smith supplied eight points and five rebounds.

·        An opportunity for a second quality road win last week slipped through the Bulldogs’ fingers at Science & Arts despite the visitors jumping out to an 11-0 lead. Emotionally, Concordia wasn’t the same after Tristan Smith went down with an awkward and painful injury in the middle of the first half. Tristan had to be helped off the court, and both teams gathered together in prayer as part of a lengthy break. Play eventually resumed and the Bulldogs took a 31-29 lead to halftime. Also receiving votes nationally, USAO took control of the second half behind three players that ended up with 17 or more points (led by 20 from Gerard Makuntae). Schutte paced Concordia with 19 points and eight rebounds while Watson posted 10 points, eight assists and three steals. Garrett Seagren chipped in eight points and two steals and Seward’s own Kelly Vyhnalek notched eight points and six rebounds in extended action.

·        A specific diagnosis has not yet been made on Tristan Smith, but the Bulldogs are preparing to play without his services for upcoming games (and perhaps for the remainder of this season). The Elizabeth, Colo., native had taken off in what is his second collegiate season. Tristan is averaging 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds and stands out as one of the more athletic players in the GPAC. He’s been a major reason why Concordia has ranked as the top defensive team in the GPAC. Of course, many remember Tristan for his alley-oop layup at the buzzer to beat Briar Cliff in mid-February last season.

·        Tristan’s older brother Gage Smith is on the verge of moving up a rung on the program’s all-time rebound list. He recently surpassed Jon Ziegler (762) for No. 4 on the list with a current total of 778 career boards. The top three in school history are Matt List (928), Chandler Folkerts (868) and Scott Beck (781). This marks year five in the program for Smith, a native of Elizabeth, Colo. Currently the GPAC’s second leading rebounder with an average of 9.7 boards per game, Gage has accumulated 1,142 career points and has 21 career double-doubles to his credit. He’s been part of two separate GPAC championship teams (2019-20 and 2021-22).

·        Schutte has pushed his career collegiate totals to 817 points and 326 rebounds in 67 games as a Bulldog. His 32 points in the win at Texas Wesleyan surpassed his previous career high of 27 points in the 92-76 win over Jamestown on Nov. 23, 2021. Schutte has reached 20 or more points 13 times in his collegiate career. His 32-point performance also marked the highest individual single game output for a Concordia player since Carter Kent racked up a career high 35 points at Mount Marty on Jan. 5, 2022.

The opponents

Mount Marty was handed an 86-64 loss in Seward on Dec. 7. The Lancers did manage to defeat the Bulldogs in the most recent meeting in Yankton, S.D. Concordia dropped a 70-67 overtime decision last season at Mount Marty. Head Coach Collin Authier’s squad came up empty during the month of December, going 0-6 with four conference defeats. The team’s most recent win came by a 67-62 score over Midland on Nov. 30. The Lancers hope to grow in 2023 behind one of the league's top freshman in Tash Lunday, who is averaging 20.7 points (third most in the GPAC). As a team, Mount Marty averages 73.1 points and allows 78.9 points per outing.

Dakota Wesleyan and Concordia are getting set to meet for the first time this season. The Bulldogs won both of last season’s matchups. It’s been an up-and-down ride so far for Matt Wilber’s crew, which is 7-7 and boasts a win at then fifth-ranked Jamestown. The team’s most accomplished star is returning First Team All-GPAC forward Koln Oppold, who is averaging 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Wilber guided the program to six straight NAIA national tournament appearances from 2015 through 2020. His 2014-15 squad was the NAIA Division II national runner up. The current DWU team is averaging 74.4 points and allowing 73.6 per game. In recent action, the Tigers have added some help in the form of transfer Diang Gatluak, a 6-foot-6 forward.

Probable starters

Concordia (10-5, 6-3 GPAC)
G – Brad Bennett (9.5)
G – Garrett Seagren (3.9)
G – AJ Watson (9.6)
F – Noah Schutte (18.9)
F – Gage Smith (11.7)

Head Coach: Ben Limback (289-276, 19th season overall; 174-118, 10th season at CUNE)

Mount Marty (5-11, 2-7 GPAC)
G – Josh Arlt (8.3)
G – Cole Bowen (10.9)
G – Kade Stearns (9.3)
G/F – Tash Lunday (20.7)
F – Chase Altenburg (1.9)

Head Coach: Collin Authier (2nd season)

Dakota Wesleyan (7-7, 3-3 GPAC)
G – Jakob Dobney (11.1)
G – Kallan Herman (11.5)
G – Blaze Lubbers (9.2)
F – Diang Gatluak (10.3)
F – Koln Oppold (15.8)

Head Coach: Matt Wilber (10th season)

Next week

The Bulldogs will be off in the middle of next week before returning to action with a trip to North Dakota for a matchup with No. 9 Jamestown on Jan. 14.