MITCHELL, S.D. – Saturday’s GPAC battle featuring the Concordia men’s basketball team and Dakota Wesleyan bared no resemblance to the earlier season meeting between the two squads. This time the Bulldogs were up to the challenge, only to let the game slip away late in a 78-70 loss at the Corn Palace.
Concordia, which fell to 7-19 overall and 2-15 in GPAC contests, followed a similar plotline as its previous six GPAC losses – all coming by six points or less.
“We’re in a good place mentally. Everyone wants to finish strong for Adam (Vogt),” first-year head coach Ben Limback said. “We just go out trying to get better every day. The frustrating thing tonight is that we really battled, we just let it go at the end.”
Despite another close loss, sophomore Robby Thomas continues to see his star brighten. After going for 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocks on Wednesday, the Shawnee, Kan., native followed it up with 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks three days later.
Thomas served as a big reason why the Bulldogs jumped out to an 11-4 lead. He made an early 3-pointer for a Concordia team that drilled its first three shots from downtown. After going 9-for-13 to start the game, the Bulldogs cooled off but still held a lead as late as the 8:21 mark of the second half.
With Concordia leading 55-54, Dakota Wesleyan (14-13, 7-10 GPAC) made its game-winning push with a 17-3 run that put it firmly in control (71-57) with 3:42 left on the clock. The spurt began with five Luke Bamberg (12 points, 14 rebounds) points before he passed the baton to Jalen Voss (22 points), who added six points during the run.
Prior to the big Tiger finish, the Bulldogs played solid in nearly pulling off a complete 180 from their 88-56 blowout loss to Dakota Wesleyan in Seward on Dec. 20. On Saturday, four of five Concordia starters reached double figures with freshman Chandler Folkerts posting 12 points and nine rebounds.
“It’s frustrating because we did a lot of things well,” Limback said. “We have to find a way to get out of this rut. I have to look at things I’m doing as far as rotations to help clear things up inside. We aren’t potent enough offensively to overcome the mistakes we had.”
The Tigers shot 47.3 percent compared to 44.3 percent for the Bulldogs. Dakota Wesleyan held a 36-31 advantage on the boards.
Concordia, ranked fourth among all NAIA Division II teams in free throw percentage (.751) entering the night, made all 10 foul shots at Dakota Wesleyan.
The loss eliminates Concordia from contention for the eight-team GPAC tournament that begins Feb. 26. The Bulldogs have three games remaining on the schedule.
They return to Walz Arena on Wednesday to begin a week in which they play host for the final two times of the season. First up is No. 7 Midland (22-4, 12-4 GPAC), who visits Seward for an 8 p.m. mid-week tilt. The Warriors dominated the first meeting in Fremont, winning 70-45.