SEWARD, Neb. – After a strong outing in the 21st Annual Cattle Classic, the Concordia University men’s basketball team will begin GPAC play this week. The Bulldogs will square off against Midland on Tuesday (Nov. 10) and Northwestern o Saturday (Nov. 14). Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CT on Tuesday and 4 p.m. CT on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (3-1, 0-0 GPAC) opened up play at home as expected with blowout wins over Emmaus Bible College (107-48) and Manhattan Christian College (95-60). Concordia will attempt to get out to a stronger start this week on the offensive end after making one field goal in the first four minutes against Emmaus Bible College and shooting 37.1 percent in the first half versus Manhattan Christian. Junior Justin Wiersema led the scoring effort both nights with 11 points against Emmaus and 23 points in the victory over Manhattan Christian. Junior Forward Gage Smith also had an impressive showing, recording a double-double against Manhattan Christian with 13 points and 19 rebounds. Smith also pulled down 11 boards in the victory over Emmaus.
From a statistical standpoint, Concordia has been stellar on both ends. Among all NAIA teams, it ranks 18th in scoring defense (66.75) and 39th in field goal percentage defense (.406). Offensively the Bulldogs rank 11th in scoring offense (92.00), 11th in three-point field goals made (43), 12th in scoring margin (+25.25) and 22nd in assist/turnover ratio (1.30). Gage Smith has made his presence known as his 44 rebounds this season rank seventh among all NAIA players in the post.
Offensively, Concordia has relied on a very balanced scoring attack as three players are averaging double figures. Wiersema is the leading scorer on the young season averaging 18 points per contest. Following Wiersema in double figures is the junior duo of Carter Kent (13.8 ppg.) and Gage Smith (10 ppg.) Senior Sam Scarpelli is just outside of double figures, averaging 9.3 points per game. With the departure of Chuol Biel, rebounding was a big question for Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad going into the season. So far, the Bulldogs have proven they can win the battle on the glass. Concordia is averaging 44.2 rebounds a game while limiting opponents to 35. The Bulldogs also lean on their fast pace of play, resulting in 72 field goal attempts per game. Concordia will look to push the pace against Midland and Northwestern this week as neither team has attempted as many field goals in a single game.
Midland (0-1, 0-0) dropped its season opener against Grand View University 83-77. Senior Guard Laurence Merritt was the leading scorer in the opener, scoring 27 points while going 8-23 from the floor. Junior Bo Sandquist also made an impact with 13 points and six rebounds. Midland’s 77 points per game rank eighth in the GPAC. The Warriors were 10-17 in 2019-2020, failing to make the GPAC postseason tournament. The Bulldogs have taken the last three matchups over the Warriors and lead the all-time series 15-14.
Northwestern (2-0, 0-0) has won both its contest this season by an average of 15 points. The Raiders defeated Viterbo in their home opener 84-70 before dispatching Bellevue 76-60. Northwestern has four players averaging double figures. Freshman Alex Van Kalsbeek leads the Raiders averaging 20.5 points and nine rebounds per game. Northwestern went 20-12 in 2019-2020, losing in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament to the College of Idaho. Northwestern was slated at second while garnering two first-place votes in the 2020-2021 GPAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Concordia has won three straight matchups over Northwestern dating back to the 2018-2019 season.
Concordia (3-1, 0-0 GPAC)
G – Sam Scarpelli, Sr., 5-9 (9.3 ppg)
G – Carter Kent, Jr., 6-2 (13.8 ppg)
G – Justin Wiersema, Jr., 6-3 (18.0 ppg)
F – Gage Smith, Jr., 6-6 (10.0 ppg)
F – Klay Uher, Jr., 6-8 (9.3 ppg)
Midland (0-1, 0-0 GPAC)
G – Laurence Merritt, Sr., 5-10 (27.0 ppg)
G – Bo Sandquist, Jr., 6-5 (13.0 ppg)
G – Emanuel Bryson, Jr., 5-9 (7.0 ppg)
F – Colby Tichota, Fr., 6-6 (7.0 ppg)
F – Samuel Mailloux, Sr., 6-7 (4.0 ppg)
Northwestern (2-0, 0-0 GPAC)
G – Trent Hilbrands, Sr., 6-0 (11.5 ppg)
G – Keegan Van Egdom, Sr., 6-2 (13.5 ppg)
G – Jay Small, Sr., 6-2 (9.5 ppg)
G – Isaac Heyer, Sr., 6-3 (4.5 ppg)
F – Alex Van Kalsbeek, Fr., 6-6 (20.5 ppg)