Focused Bulldogs seize share of GPAC regular season title

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 19, 2022 in Men's Basketball

MITCHELL, S.D. – At the same location where the Concordia University Men’s Basketball program celebrated a GPAC tournament title two years ago, the Bulldogs returned on a mission to check off another box. Focused and determined, Concordia controlled the entire 40 minutes on Saturday (Feb. 19) while earning an 86-70 win over Dakota Wesleyan at the Corn Palace. It marked the completion of a wild week that ended with the Bulldogs claiming a share of the GPAC regular season title.

They showed on Saturday what a mature bunch they are. Over the past few days, Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad had been mentioned on TV shows such as SportsCenter, Around The Horn and College GameDay and online by Barstool Sports. Concordia (22-6, 15-5 GPAC) did not get lost in the hoopla of Wednesday’s zany 74-73 win over Briar Cliff.

“It’s a great feeling,” Limback said. “I’m so proud of our guys. We had a big win on Wednesday and you want to make sure you come out and have some fire today. It was one of those things where guys were hungry. After last night we knew we had a chance to at least share with a great Briar Cliff team. You could see the senior leadership today with the way we started the game and the way we finished. There were times where momentum would shift a little bit and we’d get a big three by Gage (Smith) or a free throw by Justin (Wiersema) or Carter (Kent) or a big dunk by Noah (Schutte). I thought AJ Watson was really good tonight, both ends. The ball was moving really well.

“I’m so proud of this team. God gives us opportunities and so many blessings in life. These guys just took advantage of those opportunities tonight. I’m just really, really proud of these guys.”

Behind Watson, the Bulldogs raced out to a 13-2 lead on Saturday and owned a double-digit lead for the entirety of the game’s final 32 minutes. It was fitting that Concordia used such balance on the evening that it earned the program’s first conference regular season title since the 1995-96 season. Watson posted 14 of his 17 points in the first half while Schutte got going in a big way after halftime. Schutte notched a double-double (20 points and 10 rebounds), Wiersema poured in 15 points and Gage Smith totaled 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

This was one of the those nights where the Bulldogs did all of the little things well. They committed only four turnovers and won the rebound battle, 35-27, while shooting 46.0 percent (29-for-63) from the floor. The lead reached its peak (84-62) after an emphatic dunk by Schutte in the final minutes. The starters were left out there until the last couple minutes – just to make sure Concordia left no doubt.

The Bulldogs are exceptionally tough to beat when Watson plays this well. He added two steals while playing at his usual high level defensively. But who gets the credit isn’t a concern for members of this team. Together, they accomplished one of their lofty goals.

Said Limback, “AJ’s got some emotion to him, which we need. You saw that tonight. I love this team. I hope we get to play for a long, long time now. We’re going to enjoy this tonight and we’re going to have a tough conference tournament no matter who we’re playing. We’ll be ready for next week’s matchup.”

Dakota Wesleyan (12-15, 9-11 GPAC) will be the No. 8 seed in the GPAC tournament. The Tigers celebrated their senior day on Saturday. Their top scorer was Mason Larson with 19 points. He was backed by Koln Oppold’s 15 points and nine rebounds.

There will be a time to move on, but right now it’s about soaking up another monumental moment. Said Limback, “We’re going to celebrate tonight and have a good time, and hopefully Bulldog Nation does too.”

The Bulldogs will be at home for the quarterfinals of the GPAC tournament on Wednesday. As the No. 2 seed, Concordia will draw seventh-seeded Morningside (14-11, 11-9 GPAC) as postseason play gets underway. Tipoff from Friedrich Arena will be at 7 p.m. CT.