First half surge the difference as Bulldogs claim win at St. Ambrose

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 30, 2023 in Men's Basketball

DAVENPORT, Iowa – Life on the road continues for a Concordia University Men’s Basketball team in the midst of a stretch including lengthy trips to Hawaii, the Quad Cities and North Dakota. In the latest journey, the Bulldogs used a 25-9 first half-closing surge to take control of host St. Ambrose University. The usual productive performances from Noah Schutte and Tristan Smith were again crucial in what concluded in a 90-75 road victory inside Lohman Arena in Davenport, Iowa, on Saturday (Dec. 30).

Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad improved to 5-1 in true road games this season and stands at 9-3 overall. The outing marked Concordia’s first contest since playing twice at the Big Island Holiday Classic (Dec. 17-18).

“They hung in there, and we had some defensive miscues throughout the game,” Limback said. “I didn’t think we were very sharp mentally on the defensive end, so we talked about that. They just didn’t have an answer for Noah and Tristan. The second half was kind of back and forth and then we made a nice run there. We were good enough to win today – we can be better. St. Ambrose outplayed us during stretches of the second half, but it’s great to come on the road this far and get a win.”

The spurt to finish the first half allowed the Bulldogs some margin for error in a game that wasn’t always pretty. Both teams had gone nearly two weeks since their most recent outings – and they looked it at times. The most consistently reliable factor for either side on Saturday was Concordia’s ability to attack the rim with Schutte and Smith, both of whom recorded double-doubles. Schutte collected 23 points and 12 rebounds and Smith totaled 18 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

A 12-0 run in the first half turned a 26-23 deficit into a 35-26 advantage and gave the Bulldogs a lead they would never relinquish. As part of a 14-point performance, Brad Bennett poured in the final five points of that spurt. The advantage hovered in double digits virtually the rest of the way, although St. Ambrose did manage to crawl back within eight (65-57) in the middle of the second half. The Fighting Bees hung around thanks to 23-for-26 (.885) foul shooting and a team high 20 points from Will Spriggs.

A combined 43 fouls prevented there from being much of a flow to the game. St. Ambrose big man Ryan Kenney picked up four fouls in the first half and teammate Max Steiner eventually fouled out. Concordia canned 24-of-32 (.750) shots from the charity stripe and shot 52.6 percent (30-for-57) from the floor overall. Freshman Lukas Helms knocked down all four of his free throw tries and joined Bennett, Schutte and Smith in double figures with 10 points. Freshman Tyler Harre added seven points off the bench.

Separated by roughly a six-hour drive, Concordia and St. Ambrose hadn’t met since the 2007-08 season (66-62 Concordia win). The Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference member Bees slipped to 6-7 overall. There were positive takeaways for St. Ambrose, which held a 35-32 rebound advantage. Head Coach Ray Shovlain’s squad has made significant strides since finishing the 2022-23 season at 5-20.

This was a nice way for the Bulldogs to get back into the swing of things ahead of a pivotal month of January. Said Limback, a native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, “These are important. It was a chance to get a game in and get into a rhythm. Jaxon Weyand has been out with a nose injury. We got him some reps. I thought offensively we were really good in a lot of spurts. It’s nice to be in the great state of Iowa. Ideally, this will springboard us back into conference play.”

GPAC play will resume on Wednesday when the Bulldogs will meet up with Jamestown (6-7, 2-4 GPAC) in North Dakota. Game time from Newman Arena is slated for 7:45 p.m. CT. Concordia won this season’s first meeting, 99-78, in a contest played inside Friedrich Arena on Dec. 2. This will be the final matchup between the two sides as conference opponents.