SEWARD, Neb. – The final week of the fall 2022 semester has arrived on the Concordia campus. Once exams are in the books, the Bulldog Men’s Basketball team can shift complete focus to Thursday evening’s home matchup with rival Doane. Tipoff is set for 7:45 p.m. CT from Friedrich Arena. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad has experienced an up-and-down ride of late. In last week’s action, Concordia protected the home court with an 86-64 win over Mount Marty before being upset on the road, 70-68, by Hastings. The 19th-ranked Bulldogs enter the week at 8-3 overall (5-3 GPAC).
Thursday, Dec. 15 vs. Doane (7-5, 4-2 GPAC), 7:45 p.m.
--Live Webcast/Stats | Max Country | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)
By the numbers
· There’s enough parity in the league that fans and observers ought to expect the unexpected at this point. While the Bulldogs are 3-3 over their last six games, those three losses have come against teams that are a combined 29-7 overall this season. Other than Midland (0-7 GPAC), every other team in the GPAC has won at least two league games and every team has dropped at least two GPAC contests. It’s been unpredictable to the point that co-2021-22 GPAC regular season champion Briar Cliff has started out 2-4 in conference despite returning most of its pieces from last season.
· Limback will look back at both of last week’s outings and likely feel as though his team started out a bit underwhelming. In the win over Mount Marty (5-9, 2-6 GPAC), Concordia did gain some separation late in the first half. Then finally, the Bulldogs closed the game on a 15-3 run that put it out of reach. The highlight of the evening came on a Tristan Smith alley-oop dunk via a lob from AJ Watson. Tristan finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Four teammates joined him in double figures in scoring: Noah Schutte (18), Gage Smith (14) and Watson (11). Concordia shot 53.4 percent from the floor and had its way on the boards, 38-22.
· The 13-game series win streak over Hastings has fallen by the wayside. The Bulldogs spent much of this past Saturday afternoon playing catch-up on the road. Concordia looked like it might escape with a win when Gage Smith’s three-point play made it a 68-64 lead with a minute to play. Unfortunately, the Broncos (10-2, 4-2 GPAC) made the plays down the stretch. Grady Corrigan and Phil Cisrow knocked down a trey apiece to pull it out for Hastings. Corrigan then blocked a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer. The Bulldogs fell despite 20 points from Schutte and a 14-point, eight-rebound effort from Gage Smith.
· Through 11 games, Concordia remains a statistically sound squad that shoots 46.9 percent from the floor and holds the opposition to 39.0 percent shooting. Nationally, the Bulldogs rank third in defensive rebounds per game (32.0), 16th in opponent field goal percentage (.390), 16th in opponent 3-point percentage (.272), 29th in rebound margin (plus-7.7) and 33rd in free throw percentage (.749). Four Bulldogs are scoring in double figures: Schutte (17.3), Tristan Smith (14.5), Gage Smith (12.9) and Brad Bennett (11.5) with Watson (9.7) right near that mark.
· The Laurel-Concord-Coleridge High School alum Schutte continues to perform as a model of consistency. Schutte has reached 20 points four times this season and has failed to score in double digits only once (mostly due to being held back in the blowout win over Northwestern). Schutte has notched 20 or more points 11 times in his career with his career high being 27 points in a win last season over Jamestown. Over his career, Schutte has gone from averages of 2.9 points and 1.4 rebounds as a freshman to 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds as a sophomore to 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds so far this season. His career totals in 63 career collegiate games are 724 points and 302 rebounds.
· Currently the GPAC’s leading rebounder at 10.3 boards per game, Gage Smith now stands alone at No. 5 in program history with 747 career rebounds (he’s also pushed his career point total to 1,108). Smith is looking up on the rebound list at Matt List (928), Chandler Folkerts (868), Scott Beck (781) and Jon Ziegler (762). It’s true that Gage is in his fifth season of college hoops, but he’s piled up the numbers in a fairly modest number of games – 115. Kind of like Schutte, Smith used his freshman season to adjust to the college game.
· In his first nine seasons as head coach of the Bulldogs, Limback owns a record of 13-6 versus Doane. Concordia has won four of the last five meetings in a series that has often resulted in close contests. The 2021-22 matchups saw the Bulldogs win twice at home (by scores of 60-50 and 67-65) and fall in Crete, 54-50. In recent years, the meetings have showcased a contrast in styles with a Concordia team that likes to get out and run in transition and a Doane squad that has frequently tried to slow the pace and play in the half court. That might change a little this season with the Tigers averaging 74.3 points per game, an increase from 69.8 last season.
Doane has gone a combined 26-18 since the start of the 2021-22 season while taking a significant leap forward. The 19-13 record put forth in 2021-22 marked the program’s first winning season in nearly a decade. The stars of the show in 2022-23 are the likes of Alec Oberhauser (18.3) and Brady Timm (17.8), who combined to average more than 35.0 points per game. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster so far this season for the Tigers, who have already had three games go to overtime within league play. Doane’s potential has been on display in quality wins over the likes of Morningside and sixth-ranked Jamestown. One thing the Tigers have done particularly well is limit their turnovers. They rank 19th nationally for fewest turnovers committed per game (10.6).
Concordia (8-3, 5-3 GPAC)
G – AJ Watson (9.7)
G – Garrett Seagren (4.1)
F – Noah Schutte (17.3)
F – Gage Smith (12.9)
F – Tristan Smith (14.5)
Head Coach: Ben Limback (287-274, 19th season overall; 172-116, 10th season at CUNE)
Doane (7-5, 4-2 GPAC)
G – Nick Saiz (8.3)
G – Brady Timm (17.8)
G/F – Caleb Hrabik (2.2)
F – Alec Oberhauser (18.3)
F – Cooper Sheldon (7.9)
Head Coach: Ian McKeithen (85-136, 8th season at Doane)
The anticipated Battle in the Vault is coming up next Tuesday, Dec. 20. On that date, the Bulldogs will take on eighth-ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan University at 1 p.m. CT inside Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, home to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Tickets remain on sale via Ticketmaster. The contest at PBA will be the only action of next week for Concordia.