The Bulldog men’s basketball team picked up a 78-74 win over CU-Ann Arbor in the opening round of the Concordia Invitational Tournament. Concordia, now 10-12 on the season, advanced to Saturday’s CIT championship game with the victory. CU-Ann Arbor dropped to 12-11 with the loss.
The Dogs led by as many as six in the opening half, but CU-Ann Arbor took a slim 27-25 lead into halftime. Both teams struggled from the field in the opening 20 minutes. CU-Ann Arbor was just 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) overall and 1-of-7 from deep, while CU-Nebraska was 11-of-30 (36.7 percent) overall and 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) from deep in the half. Free throw shooting was the difference early, as the Cardinals went a perfect 10-for-10 at the charity stripe in the half. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, went just 1-for-2 from the line in the first 20 minutes.
CU-Ann Arbor threatened to pull away early in the second half. The Cardinals took their biggest lead of the game (34-28) on a jumper by Andrew Patrick with 17:36 remaining in the contest. From there, however, the Bulldogs went on a key 17-4 run to take control of the contest. A 3-point play by Charles Dunbar (St. Louis, Mo.) gave the Bulldogs a 41-38 advantage. A layup by Porter Birtell (Madison, Neb.) and jumper by Beau Smith (McKinney, Texas) increased the advantage to 45-38 with less than 14 minutes to play.
The Bulldogs then built a double-digit advantage and still led by 10 (65-55) with less than five minutes to play. The Cardinals didn’t go away quietly, however, and a pair of made free throws pulled CU-Ann Arbor back within three (67-64) with 3:23 left in regulation. The Cardinals kept the pressure on down the stretch and trailed by just three on multiple occasions. The Bulldogs closed out the win with solid free throw shooting in the closing minute. Joel Haywood (Lakewood, Colo.) and Dunbar combined to hit 7-of-8 at the foul line in the final minute, and the Bulldogs held on for the 78-74 win.
Birtell and Smith each had big days to lead the way for the Bulldogs in the win. The duo combined for 45 points on 18-of-26 shooting from the field. Birtell had a big double-double of 29 points and 11 rebounds in just 24 minutes of action, while Smith chipped in with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Dunbar added 10 points and three assists off the bench, while Tyler Byrd (Bennington, Neb.) dished out a game-best six assists. The Bulldogs were 16-of-28 from the field and 20-of-23 at the foul line in the final half of play.
CU-Ann Arbor got balanced scoring and placed four of their five starters in double figures. Rocko Holmes scored 18 points and grabbed nine boards. John Schaeffer added 17 points, while Andrew Patrick (13 points) and Aaron Olsen (10 points) also reached double digits for the Cardinals.
The Bulldogs will face either CU-Chicago or CU-Wisconsin in Saturday’s CIT championship contest. Tip is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.