SEWARD, Neb. – Life is much easier when the shots are falling. They weren’t in back-to-back home losses that led into Wednesday’s conference tilt with visiting Hastings. This time around the Concordia University men’s basketball team shot 57.7 percent in the second half and held on in crunch time for a 78-76 victory inside Walz Arena.
It was a crucial win for fourth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad as it tries to climb up the conference ladder. Currently in seventh place, the Bulldogs now sit at 13-8 overall and at 5-7 in GPAC action.
“That was a gutsy defensive effort down the stretch there,” Limback said. “We had free throw misses and about everything that could have went wrong, I thought, did. In the first half, Chandler (Folkerts) gets three fouls and we struggle from three. In the second half, we started to get it going.
“I’m proud of our guys to be able to get two stops like that (to seal the win).”
The Bulldogs built a lead as large as 12 points in the second half, but anxious moments surfaced in the closing seconds. A seven-point lead (77-70) with less than a minute remaining got whittled all the way down to one (77-76) after Trey Moore buried a 3-pointer that came after his own free throw miss. Just 24 seconds remained.
The final ticks were a calamity. Concordia missed the first of a one-and-one. Then Hastings turned it over. Then the Bulldogs missed another front end of a one-and-one. Then Hastings turned it over again on a pass that was stolen by the hero of the night, Seth Curran. All of that happened in less than 30 seconds.
“We just knew we needed some stops to win the game,” Curran said. “The last two possessions they didn’t even get shots off. We got two big steals and we sealed it there.”
Senior guards in Curran and Eli Ziegler possessed the hot hands. Curran knocked down six treys on his way to a team high 19 points (one off a career high). He also added six dimes and three steals in 36 minutes of action. Ziegler added 17 points of 5-for-11 shooting from the floor. Curran poured in his biggest triple with just over two minutes left with Concordia nursing a two-point lead. Their offense was much needed on a night when Folkerts was limited to 19 minutes due to foul trouble.
Star Bronco guard Trey Moore started slow, but then got going late in the game. Moore tallied 13 of his game high 20 points over the final five minutes of the game in attempting to rally Hastings from a double-digit deficit. Instead, the Broncos (12-12, 6-6 GPAC) fell for the first time in three tries. They were coming off a 90-85 double overtime upset of then fourth-ranked Northwestern.
Jake Hornick and Chris Johnstone added 10 points apiece for Concordia, which shot 49.1 percent for the game, compared to Hastings’ 44.8 percent shooting. The Bulldogs went 12-for-28 from 3-point range.
Concordia hopes this win springs a late-season run.
“We’ve had some tough ones lately,” Curran said. “We had a big layoff after that Midland game and that kind of messed up our rhythm against Morningside. We really needed this one.”
Now the Bulldogs can finally place their full attention upon the 66th annual Concordia Invitational Tournament, which returns to Seward for the 2017 event. CUNE will host Concordia University-Chicago (4-14) at 8 p.m. CT on Friday. The winner will move onto the CIT championship game at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Bulldogs are defending CIT champs.