Dawgs look to continue home dominance in regular season's final week

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 15, 2021 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – A string of home games to finish the regular season will continue on Wednesday as the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team prepares to host Hastings in a contest originally scheduled to be played last week. Then on Saturday, it will be senior day when Doane visits Friedrich Arena. The Bulldogs are an impressive 9-1 at home this season after knocking off 16th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan, 89-77, on Feb. 6. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad remains hopeful of earning a top four spot in the final GPAC standings for a second year in a row.

As part of senior day, the following seniors will be honored prior to tipoff:

Ryan Holt | Highlands Ranch, Colo. | Public Health & Fitness

Sam Scarpelli | Portland, Ore. | Marketing

Grant Wragge | Crofton, Neb. | Business Administration/Marketing

Thomas Young | Clarks, Neb. | Secondary Education

This Week

Concordia (15-8, 12-6) vs. Hastings (6-17, 2-16)
Wednesday, Feb. 17 | 7 p.m.
Friedrich Arena | Seward, Neb.
Webcast/Live Stats: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 KTMX-FM Max Country
Commentator: Parker Cyza

Concordia (15-8, 12-6) vs. Doane (6-18, 3-16)
Saturday, Feb. 20 | 4 p.m.
Friedrich Arena | Seward, Neb.
Webcast/Live Stats: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 KTMX-FM Max Country
Commentator: Parker Cyza


*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 201 of 229 NAIA men’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.

Scoring Offense: 81.3 (63rd)
Scoring Defense: 73.0 (56th)
FG% Offense: .465 (T-62nd)
FG% Defense: .452 (T-118th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .338 (113th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .348 (T-118th)
Free Throw%: .699 (T-93rd)
Rebound Margin: +4.57 (48th)
Turnover Margin: +1.30 (66th)

Scoring Offense: 78.8 (75th)
Scoring Defense: 86.5 (186th)
FG% Offense: .460 (T-74th)
FG% Defense: .477 (165th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .348 (T-95th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .361 (T-155th)
Free Throw%: .729 (T-48th)
Rebound Margin: -6.52 (174th)
Turnover Margin: +2.30 (40th)

Scoring Offense: 73.4 (141st)
Scoring Defense: 80.8 (151st)
FG% Offense: .433 (T-138th)
FG% Defense: .490 (180th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .332 (T-120th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .384 (T-186th)
Free Throw%: .757 (17th)
Rebound Margin: -8.04 (184th)
Turnover Margin: +3.67 (16th)

Protocols for fans
Concordia home games: Consistent with state directed health measures, Concordia will allow up to 50 percent capacity for its home games. Fans are encouraged to purchase advance tickets online (https://www.cune.edu/athletics/tickets). Tickets will also be sold at the door, provided capacity limits have not been reached via online sales.
--NOTE: All GPAC events require fans to wear face coverings. To review specific COVID-19 protocols for the GPAC and its member institutions, visit: http://www.gpacsports.com/gpac-covid19-fan-protocols.

Recent action
It was a week of one down and then one up (during the week of Feb. 1) as the Bulldogs closed out the road portion of the regular season. A rough first half gave Concordia a hole of 16 points to attempt to dig out of at Dordt. The Bulldogs rallied back within one (63-62) in the second half before falling in Sioux Center, Iowa. Gage Smith (19 points and 12 rebounds) and Carter Kent (4-for-6 from 3-point range) spurred the comeback efforts. Concordia wound up going 5-5 this season in GPAC road games. In defeating No. 16 Dakota Wesleyan, the Bulldogs earned a home win over the Tigers for the first time since December 2016. Smith went off for 32 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot in a career performance. As a team, things clicked offensively as Concordia shot 50.8 percent from the floor. Three other Bulldogs scored in double figures: Justin Wiersema (15), Kent (13) and Cory Davila (12). The inside scoring of Davila and Klay Uher helped make up for the absence of Ryan Holt, sidelined by injury.

Home dominance
Concordia hasn’t just squeaked by at home this season, it has dominated. The Bulldogs are 9-1 at home with the only loss coming at the hands of ninth-ranked Morningside. Eight of the nine victories have been decided by double-digit margins. Concordia has beaten six GPAC opponents by at least 10 points at home: Midland (82-55), Dordt (82-59), Mount Marty (82-71), Jamestown (81-70), Briar Cliff (81-58) and Dakota Wesleyan (89-77). In their 10 home games, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents, on average, 84.8 to 67.2, while shooting 48.1 percent from the field. Dating back to last season, Concordia has won 14 of its last 15 at home.

Smith goes off
Gage Smith has become much more than just a complimentary player. After averaging 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore, Smith has ramped up his averages to 13.7 points and 9.2 rebounds this season. Over last week’s two games, the 6-foot-6 junior piled up a combined 51 points, 21 rebounds, seven assists and two steals while going 7-for-14 from 3-point range. According to Smith, his 32 points versus Dakota Wesleyan equaled a lifetime high (once scored 32 in a high school game). Smith has produced eight double-doubles this season and is the third in the GPAC in rebounding.

Limback nears 250 wins
The Feb. 6 victory over Dakota Wesleyan marked win No. 249 in the head coaching career of Ben Limback, who spent nine seasons leading Concordia University, Ann Arbor before returning to his alma mater prior to the 2013-14 season. Limback won 115 games (including two CIT titles) at CU-Ann Arbor and has now won 134 games at CUNE. The mountaintop moment came in March of last year when the Bulldogs captured the GPAC tournament championship at Dakota Wesleyan. The 2019-20 team finished with an overall record of 24-10. The 2016-17 squad (21-10) also reached the 20-win mark.

Beating the Broncos/Tigers
Concordia has had Hastings’ number, winning 10 series matchups in a row. That streak includes one postseason meeting. The two sides met in Seward last season in the GPAC semifinals with the result being a 71-61 Bulldog win. The Broncos last defeated Concordia on Jan. 20, 2016, as part of a 2015-16 season that saw Hastings sweep the Bulldogs. Tanner Shuck and Brevin Sloup, members of the 2019-20 senior class, went 9-0 in their careers against the Broncos. In this season’s first matchup, Justin Wiersema totaled a career high 29 points in the 86-77 win at Hastings. The final score made the game appear more competitive than it was – the Bulldogs led by 19 with under five minutes remaining. As for the series with Doane, it has been much more competitive in recent seasons. Concordia drilled the Tigers in Crete earlier this season, 83-66. However, last season, the two sides split the regular season with the contest in Seward going to double overtime (83-77 Bulldog win).

GPAC update
The eight teams that will qualify for the GPAC tournament are decided, however, seeding amongst those squads is up in the air. The Bulldogs still have a mathematical chance of earning a seed as high as No. 2. They could also finish as low as No. 6, pending this week’s results. Here is what Concordia needs to happen in order to claim the No. 2 seed:

1) Defeat Hastings and Doane.
2) Morningside defeat Northwestern (Feb. 20).
3) Dakota Wesleyan defeat Jamestown (Feb. 20).

Morningside is locked into the No. 1 spot as the GPAC regular-season champion. The Mustangs have earned an automatic bid to the national tournament. The league’s second automatic bid will go to the GPAC tournament champion – or the conference’s No. 2 seed if Morningside also wins the postseason title.

Scouting Hastings
A pause for Hastings forced the postponement of the game that had been scheduled to be played at Concordia on Feb. 10. The Broncos also have not played since Feb. 6. On that date, they endured a 71-61 loss at Briar Cliff. Hastings has been eliminated from GPAC postseason contention and will finish somewhere from ninth to 11th place in the final conference standings. Though it’s been a rough season, the Broncos do have some firepower with four players averaging more than 14 points per game, including top scorer Karson Gansebom (16.7). One of those primary scorers, Ben Juhl, has not yet played in the month of February. Head Coach Bill Gavers’ program reached the GPAC semifinals a year ago.

Scouting Doane
Like Hastings, Doane will end the 2020-21 season this week. The Tigers are on track to suffer the program’s eighth-straight losing season. This will mark the third season in a row that Doane has failed to crack double digits in the win column. While the results have not been favorable, the Tigers do own a win over Dordt and have had some close calls with quality opponents, as evidenced by their 79-77 home loss to Northwestern and 109-105 overtime loss at Jamestown. Head Coach Ian McKeithen’s squad ranks in the top 20 nationally in turnover margin and free throw percentage. On the other hand, Doane has rated towards the bottom of the NAIA in many key defensive statistical categories (180th in field goal percentage defense).

Looking ahead
The GPAC tournament will being with the quarterfinal round on Wednesday, Feb. 24. Again, the site and opponent for the quarterfinals depend on this week’s results.

Projected Starters

Concordia (15-8, 12-6)
G – Carter Kent, Jr. (15.2)
G – Sam Scarpelli, Sr. (5.9)
G – Justin Wiersema, Jr. (16.7)
F – Ryan Holt, Sr. (7.9)
F – Gage Smith, Jr. (13.7)

Hastings (6-17, 2-16)
G – Karson Gansebom, So. (16.7)
G – Mason Hiemstra, So. (15.7)
G – Braden Kizer, So. (4.2)
G – Ben Juhl, Sr. (14.6)
F – Dashawn Walker, Jr. (14.4)

Doane (6-18, 3-16)
G – Joe Burt, Jr. (10.2)
G – Anthony Laravie, Sr. (16.7)
G – Tyler Sullivan, Jr. (3.2)
F – Jaxon Harre, Sr. (11.9)
F – Alec Oberhauser, Jr. (4.8)