Following CIT title, attention shifts to GPAC stretch run

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

SEWARD, Neb. – By Wednesday, it will be time for the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team to come down from the high of winning the 2023 Concordia Invitational Tournament. The Bulldogs now focus their attention on the final month of the regular season, which includes five games against GPAC opponents. Concordia will attempt to carry over the momentum from a three-win week that saw it defeat Hastings, 80-42, Concordia University Chicago, 89-70, and Concordia University Wisconsin, 82-64. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad enters the week at 14-9 overall (8-7 GPAC) and sits in fifth place in the GPAC standings. The Bulldogs will honor their senior class prior to Saturday’s home game.

This Week

Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Midland (9-14, 3-12 GPAC), 7:45 p.m.
--Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Wikert Event Center (Fremont, Neb.)

Saturday, Feb. 4 vs. Dordt (17-5, 9-5 GPAC), 3:45 p.m. (Senior Day)
--Live Webcast/Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

By the numbers

·        Home games have typically been a cure for anything that may be ailing the Bulldogs. The home mark on the season stands at 10-2 and CUNE has gone 30-2 over its last 32 contests played inside Friedrich Arena. During that run, the Bulldogs have played in front of some of the most raucous crowds the arena has seen since it first went into use beginning with the 2009-10 season. Examples included last week’s CIT games and the GPAC tournament contests of February 2022. In this season’s 12 home games, Concordia has outscored its opponents by an average margin of 79.8 to 64.3 and has outshot its foes 45.8 to 38.3 percent.

·        A 13-game series win streak over Hastings ended on Dec. 10 when the Broncos came back in the closing minutes to take it, 70-68. The Bulldogs avenged that defeat in emphatic fashion last week as they jumped on Hastings early and never gave the visitors a chance. Noah Schutte needed less than seven minutes of game time to knock down three treys, the final one making it a double-digit lead that carried through the rest of the way. Schutte finished with 23 points and five rebounds in only 23 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Gage Smith and Garrett Seagren recorded 10 points apiece and Trey Scheef poured in three triples off the bench. Concordia shot 50.0 percent from the floor while limiting the Broncos (13-9, 6-8 GPAC) to 31.5 percent.

·        The Bulldogs did not know exactly what they were going to see against Concordia Chicago (8-4), a squad that had not played in the calendar year 2023 due to some unfortunate circumstances. CUNE found itself in a battle with its lead cut to five (66-61) with just over eight minutes remaining. The evening marked a breakout performance for freshman Zac Kulus, who netted treys at the 10:17, 6:49, 6:19, 3:56 and 2:50 marks of the second half. The Omaha Concordia High School product finished the game with a career high 19 points on 5-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Schutte totaled 22 points and 12 rebounds and Gage Smith (13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists) narrowly missed a triple-double. In making his second career start, Jaxon Weyand snared eight rebounds.

·        An early second half push from Concordia Wisconsin (6-13) made things interesting in the CIT championship game. The Bulldogs’ 15-point lead was slashed to six (48-42) before the likes of Schutte and Kulus helped restore order. Brad Bennett was red hot with six treys in the first half on his way to a game high 23 points. Schutte booked 19 points (11-for-12 free throw shooting), five assists and five rebounds. Other double figure scorers were Kulus (14) and Payson Gillespie (10). For the night, CUNE made 13-of-28 shots from 3-point range and owned a 45-35 rebound advantage. Schutte was named the CIT MVP and Smith was chosen to the all-tournament team.

·        Limback has now won seven CIT championships as a head coach, including two (2006 and 2007) during his tenure at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Since returning to his alma mater, Limback has guided the Bulldogs to CIT titles in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2023. As a program, CUNE has won 29 all-time CIT championships with 16 coming under the direction of former Head Coach Grant Schmidt. The event first got started in 1951 and has occurred annually (with a few exceptions) since then. Friedrich Arena has played host to the event in 2013, 2017 and 2023.

·        Fresh off his CIT MVP award, Schutte has 1,000 career points in his sights. He enters the week having totaled 953 points in 75 career collegiate games. No one who saw him play in high school would be surprised by that production. Schutte totaled more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his prep career at Laurel-Concord-Coleridge High School. Among GPAC players, Schutte ranks seventh in scoring average (18.2), seventh in free throw percentage (.806), eighth in field goal percentage (.539) and 15th in rebounding (6.1). He’ll be in line for plenty of postseason accolades after last season being named Honorable Mention All-GPAC and an NAIA National Championship All-Tournament Team selection.

The opponents

After starting 0-7 in conference play, Midland has found some footing and picked up GPAC wins over Doane, Mount Marty and Briar Cliff during the month of January. The Warriors very nearly earned a season sweep of Doane. They were defeated on a buzzer beater in Crete this past weekend. This is year one for Head Coach Tyler Erwin at Midland, his alma mater. The Warriors are led by freshman Jake Orr, who averages 14.8 points per game out of the backcourt. Midland has averaged 73.4 points per game while allowing 78.5. Concordia’s series win streak against the Warriors grew to eight with this season’s 83-47 triumph in Seward on Nov. 16.

A national tournament qualifier last season, Dordt continues to receive votes nationally while putting to use the NAIA’s second ranked scoring offense (91.4 ppg). The experienced Defenders have four starters who average in double figures: Jacob Vis (19.9), Bryce Coppock (16.4), Lucas Lorenzen (13.5) and Cade Bleeker (11.8). This past week, Dordt fell at Dakota Wesleyan, 70-66, and then won at Hastings, 71-61. Concordia will have to contend with a Dordt team that shoots 54.6 percent from the floor and 40.3 percent from 3-point range. Head Coach Brian Van Haaften’s squad will be out to avenge the 87-72 home loss it suffered to the Bulldogs on Nov. 19. Concordia has won each of the past three series meetings.

Probable starters

Concordia (14-9, 8-7 GPAC)
G – Brad Bennett (10.2)
G – Payson Gillespie (4.2)
G – Garrett Seagren (4.8)
F – Noah Schutte (17.6)
F – Gage Smith (12.9)

Head Coach: Ben Limback (293-280, 19th season overall; 178-122, 10th season at CUNE)

Midland (9-14, 3-12 GPAC)
G – Emmanuel Bryson (6.4)
G – Ryan Larsen (10.8)
G – Jake Orr (14.8)
G – Jake Rueschhoff (9.6)
F – Colton Uhing (3.7)

Head Coach: Tyler Erwin (1st season)

Dordt (17-5, 9-5 GPAC)
G – Bryce Coppock (16.4)
G – Lucas Lorenzen (13.5)
G – Luke Rankin (7.1)
F – Cade Bleeker (11.8)
F – Jacob Vis (19.9)

Head Coach: Brian Van Haaften (5th season at Dordt)

Next week

The Bulldogs will be at Doane on Feb. 8 before enjoying the weekend of Feb. 11 off from game action. Concordia defeated the Tigers, 74-61, in Seward on Dec. 15.