GPAC play set to resume with trip to Jamestown, home matchup with DWU

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 1, 2024 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Following three-straight games outside of league play, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team will return to GPAC action this week. The Bulldogs will carry a four-game conference winning streak into Wednesday’s road trip to Jamestown. At long last, Concordia will be at home on Saturday when Dakota Wesleyan will pay a visit to Friedrich Arena. Since final exams concluded, Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad has gone 2-1 with wins over No. 19 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and St. Ambrose University (Iowa). The season record now stands at 9-3 overall (4-2 GPAC).

This Week

Wednesday, Jan. 3 at Jamestown (7-7, 2-4 GPAC), 7:45 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Newman Arena (Jamestown, N.D.)

Saturday, Jan. 6 vs. Dakota Wesleyan (8-6, 3-4 GPAC), 3:45 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

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By the numbers

·        Since taking a break from conference play following the 86-82 overtime win at Briar Cliff on Dec. 9, the Bulldogs have ventured to Hilo, Hawaii, and to Davenport, Iowa. As part of the Big Island Holiday Classic (Dec. 17-18), Concordia was clipped by NCAA Division II San Francisco State University, 74-73, and then outlasted No. 19 Olivet Nazarene, 108-103. The Bulldogs went 11 days without a game before playing at St. Ambrose this past Saturday. Both sides looked a tad rusty at times, but Concordia got the job done, 90-75, with the help of double-doubles from both Noah Schutte (23 points and 12 rebounds) and Tristan Smith (18 points and 10 rebounds). The Bulldogs outscored the Fighting Bees 25-9 over the final seven minutes of the opening half while creating some breathing room. Concordia led by at least eight points for the entirety of the second half and moved to 5-1 in true road games this season.

·        At the break in GPAC play, the Bulldogs reside in fourth place in the league standings with a 4-2 conference record. The current top three squads are Hastings (6-0), Morningside (5-1) and Northwestern (5-1). Those three teams received mention in the NAIA coaches’ poll that was released on Dec. 13 as Northwestern was ranked 13th, Morningside landed at No. 17 and Hastings received votes. The next NAIA poll is scheduled to be released on Jan. 17. A solid run between now and then could put Concordia on the radar. The Bulldogs have not yet received votes in the national poll this season. The 2021-22 GPAC championship squad made it to No. 23 entering the postseason (which saw the Bulldogs advance to the national quarterfinals) while the ’22-23 team rose as high as 19th in the coaches’ poll. The No. 19 ranking was the highest for the program since rising to 17th during the 2008-09 season.

·        Few players in the entire NAIA are as consistently productive as the Laurel, Neb., native Schutte. His 23-point outing at St. Ambrose marked the 32nd 20-point performance of his career. Among GPAC players this season, Schutte ranks first in rebounds per game (9.3), third in scoring average (22.3) and fifth in field goal percentage (.595). Over 95 career games, Schutte has run his collegiate totals to 1,425 points and 569 rebounds. On the program’s all-time lists, Schutte ranks 11th in scoring and 14th in rebounds. He needs 55 more points to crack the program’s top 10 all-time in scoring. Schutte has hit double digits in scoring in 25-consecutive games dating back to last season.

·        The combination of Schutte and Smith has caused major problems for the opposition. The Elizabeth, Colo., native Smith has been everything Limback and his staff hoped he would be after returning from an injury that sidelined him for roughly half of the 2022-23 season. Smith logged his fourth double-double of the season in the outing at St. Ambrose. The 6-foot-5 athletic dynamo has filled the stat sheet with averages of 18.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. Smith is shooting 57.7 percent from the floor. In 61 career games as a Bulldog, Smith has piled up 587 points, 300 rebounds, 68 assists, 64 blocks and 44 steals.

·        The win at St. Ambrose marked the fifth time this season that Concordia has hit the 90-point mark. The Bulldogs have notched triple digits in three outings. Nationally, Concordia ranks 15th in scoring average at 89.2 points per game. It also boasts national rankings of 11th in free throw makes per game (18.3), 18th in field goal percentage (.503), 38th in 3-point field goal makes per game (9.0) and 56th in rebound margin (+4.8).

·        When healthy, sophomore Jaxon Weyand has served as the starting point guard in a lineup that also features junior guard Brad Bennett and forwards in Schutte, Smith and freshman Lukas Helms. The latter four have started all 12 games this season. Others who have started are Joel Baker (four), Zac Kulus (one) and Jaxon Stueve (one). Fourteen players saw action in the win at St. Ambrose. Limback continues to bring along a freshman class that includes not only Helms but also Hayden Frank, Tyler Harre, Brooks Kissinger, Stueve and Brandt Van Dyke.

Concordia Projected Starting Five
G – Brad Bennett, 6-1 (9.8)
G – Jaxon Weyand, 5-11 (2.7)
F – Lukas Helms, 6-6 (7.0)
F – Noah Schutte, 6-4 (22.3)
F – Tristan Smith, 6-5 (18.9)

The opponents

Jamestown will meet up with Concordia for the second time in roughly a month. Back on Dec. 2, the Jimmies fell inside Friedrich Arena, 99-78. Since then, Jamestown has gotten on a roll with five-straight wins, including a 91-81 home upset of then 16th-ranked Morningside. A transfer from Lewis and Clark State College (Idaho), Silas Bennion leads the team with a scoring average of 18.8 points per game. It took a bit for the Jimmies to get on track after former head coach Danny Neville resigned in mid-November. Former Jamestown women’s basketball coach Greg Ulland has stepped into the role on an interim basis. Ulland can lean upon program veterans in the backcourt in Will Cordes and Cole Woodford. The glaring departure from recent seasons is 2022-23 NAIA National Player of the Year Mason Walters, who transferred to the University of Wyoming for his final season of eligibility.

Jamestown Projected Starting Five
G – Silas Bennion, 6-0 (18.8)
G – Will Cordes, 5-11 (12.6)
G – Cole Woodford, 6-1 (12.6)
F – Christian Lietz, 6-4 (5.3)
F – Jimmy Llinas, 6-8 (9.6)

Dakota Wesleyan became a perennial national tournament team under Head Coach Matt Wilber, reaching the national stage six-straight seasons from 2015 through 2020. The Tigers were picked sixth in the 2023-24 GPAC preseason coaches’ poll after finishing last season at 13-16 overall (9-11 GPAC). A previous GPAC Honorable Mention All-Conference award winner, Jakob Dobney paces the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game. Idle since its 89-80 win at Waldorf University (Iowa) on Dec. 16, DWU will be knocking off the rust by hosting Viterbo University (Wis.) on Wednesday. The month of December for the Tigers began with league losses to Midland and Northwestern before a home victory over Mount Marty. DWU averages 77.7 points and shoots 43.8 percent from the floor offensively. On the other end, it allows 75.1 points and 46.3 percent shooting.

Dakota Wesleyan Projected Starting Five
G – Jakob Dobney, 6-0 (15.6)
G – Kallan Herman, 6-2 (9.4)
G – Blaze Lubbers, 6-3 (12.1)
G – Randy Rosenquist Jr., 6-0 (14.5)
F – Samuel Aslesen, Jr. 6-7 (11.4)

Next Week

Conference play will heat up as the Bulldogs will continue a homestand that features visits from Doane on Jan. 10 and Dordt on Jan. 13. Concordia will play at home five times during the month of January.