SHAWNEE, Okla. – Concordia men’s basketball resumed its daunting pre-New Year’s schedule on Saturday afternoon against a potent 19th-ranked (NAIA Division I) St. Gregory’s University squad. The host Cavaliers (10-1) shot 48.1 percent on the way to a 69-64 win over the Bulldogs, who fell to 4-10 overall.
“Today we competed. We saw more of what I’d call Bulldog basketball,” first-year head coach Ben Limback said. “We saw more toughness. To beat a team like this on the road we just need to be able to shoot better from the perimeter and take care of the ball.”
Behind 20 points and 14 rebounds (both career highs) from 6-foot-7 sophomore Robby Thomas, the Bulldogs hung around all afternoon and held the lead late in the first half. After struggling last time out against Dakota Wesleyan, Concordia improved significantly on the boards (34-33 advantage) and pushed a St. Gregory’s crew that had entered the month of December without a blemish.
“Robby had a monster game,” Limback said. “He was very active and really kept us in the game.”
Thomas tried to will Concordia to victory down the stretch. His 3-pointer at the 3:21 mark cut a six-point deficit in half (65-62). Down 67-64 in the final minute, the Bulldogs got a key stop and took possession with :15 remaining. Sophomore Deondre White missed a shot in the paint on the ensuing trip and the Cavaliers sealed the game with two free throws.
While its 20 turnovers and 3-for-17 (.176) shooting from 3-point range may have kept Concordia from winning, Limback was particularly pleased with the late defensive stance that put the team within striking distance in the final seconds.
“Those are the types of things we hadn’t been doing – those toughness plays,” Limback said. “That’s all you can ask as a coach – that you do your best and put yourself in position to win the game against a good team.”
Dramatically better than the 2012-13 team that went 7-18, the Cavaliers used a remarkably balanced scoring effort to put away Concordia on Saturday. While NAIA Division II’s second leading scorer, Marty Wilkerson (24.6 ppg), was held to 13 points (none in the second half), he combined with Tilford Thornton (17 points) and Richard Shields (17 points) for 47 points.
Both teams shot respectably overall from the field with St. Gregory’s possessing a 48.1 percent shooting clip to Concordia’s 43.9 figure. The host got to the line 26 times but knocked down only 14 of those attempts. The Cavaliers went just 5-for-16 from the charity stripe in the second half.
St. Gregory’s 69 points were a season low. Their high-powered offensive attack entered the game ranked 13th in NAIA Division I with an average of 92.0 points per game.
Thomas, a native of Shawnee, Kan., now has five double-doubles on the season – second most in the GPAC.
Concordia senior guard Adam Vogt chipped in 11 points and freshman teammate Chandler Folkerts booked 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Bulldogs will be off on Sunday before continuing the road trip on Monday when they play at Kansas Wesleyan University (2-9) at 7 p.m. Concordia will use Sunday to catch an NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets at 6 p.m. The team may also pay a visit to the site of the Oklahoma City bombing memorial.
Monday's game can be viewed live online HERE.