CUNE falls in CIT heartbreaker

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 26, 2018 in Men's Basketball

MEQUON, Wis. – A steal and layup by Emmanuel Dominguez in the closing seconds on the opening day of the 2018 Concordia Invitational Tournament resulted in heartbreak for the Bulldogs on Friday (Jan. 26) in Mequon, Wis. Despite rallying back from an 11-point deficit to knot the score, CUNE suffered a 56-54 loss at the hands of Concordia University, Ann Arbor.

Fifth-year head coach Ben Limback’s program had hoped to defend its 2016 and 2017 CIT titles. Instead, the Bulldogs slipped to 15-7 overall and will be relegated to the consolation game.

“We just had a disappointing start to the second half,” Limback said. “We gave up a big run. We had to switch to zone. Clay (Reimers) got his fourth foul and Zach (Friel) went down. I thought we did a good job in the zone. That helped us stay in the game. We just couldn’t get the offense clicking. Ann Arbor did good things defensively. I told the team we have to be more consistent offensively.”

What a difference a couple of days and nearly 600 miles on the road made for CUNE, which torched the nets at Hastings in a 93-83 GPAC win on Wednesday. This time around, the Bulldogs barely shot above 40 percent from the field and turned it over 18 times. The final turnover proved most debilitating. After Limback had called timeout with the score tied 54-54 and eight seconds showing on the clock, Dominguez stole the inbounds and raced to the other end for the game-winning bucket.

Is some ways, this felt like the loss CUNE endured at CIT in 2015 when a last-second three lifted CUAA over the Bulldogs in the championship in Ann Arbor. The inconsistencies that plagued CUNE during its recent three-game skid emerged again on Friday. The Bulldogs got off to a miserable start to begin the second half, watching a 31-30 halftime lead turn into a 42-31 deficit.

Over the final five minutes, it appeared that the Cardinals were trying to simply hold on for dear life. After Connor Phee put CUAA up 54-45 with a bucket at the 5:00 mark, the Cardinals did not score again until the contest’s deciding basket. A methodical 9-0 run was spurred by CUNE’s switch to a zone defense that flummoxed CUAA. Reimers both started and ended the spurt that pulled the Bulldogs even. His tip in tied it up with 31 seconds left to play.

CUNE took a hit in the frontcourt when Reimers quickly picked up his third and fourth fouls at the beginning of the second half. Not long after, Friel left due to injury. With 9:41 remaining in the game, Limback knew he had to roll the dice and put Reimers back in the game. When Reimers could keep himself on the court, the Bulldogs were the better team.

Sophomore Cordell Gillingham helped give CUNE a fighting chance by totaling a team high 16 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Reimers finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes of action. The starting five combined for only 45 points.

Jalen Thompson (20) and Phee (18) contributed 38 of the team’s 56 points. The Cardinals were held to 42.9 percent shooting while doing just enough. When Reimer’s 3-point attempt misfired at the buzzer, CUAA celebrated as if it had won the CIT championship.

The 67th annual Concordia Invitational Tournament will pick back up on Saturday when the Bulldogs will play in the consolation game. Tipoff will be at 2 p.m. CT inside R. John Buuck Field House. CUNE is not used to playing in the early game on Saturday of CIT.

“Nobody comes to this tournament wanting to play in the consolation game, but we have to show we can respond,” Limback said. “We have to show we can bounce back. Let this burn inside of you and drive you to go harder tomorrow.”