SEWARD, Neb. – Fresh off seizing the 28th Concordia Invitational Tournament title in program history, the Concordia University men’s basketball team now looks ahead at the stretch run of the conference season. With eight games left in the regular season, the Bulldogs are currently tied for fourth in the GPAC standings with a 7-5 league mark. A successful week could more firmly imprint head coach Ben Limback’s squad as a top-four team in the league. Northwestern and No. 10 Dakota Wesleyan are up next.
Note: the 2004-05 men’s basketball team that went 32-6, won the GPAC tournament and reached the national championship game will be recognized at halftime of Wednesday night’s game.
Over the past month, top-ranked Morningside has been the only opponent that has been able to slow CUNE’s roll. It has won nine of 10 games since late December while injecting legitimate hopes of a run to the national tournament. A hot early start from Brevin Sloup last week staked the Bulldogs to a double-digit lead over the Mustangs, who roared back behind big man Tyler Borchers for an 85-72 win inside Walz Arena. CUNE quickly regrouped and dominated at CIT, winning by scores of 79-57 over Concordia-Ann Arbor and 92-55 over Concordia-Wisconsin. Senior Tanner Shuck earned CIT MVP honors while junior Sam Scarpelli was named all-tournament.
Each of the Bulldogs’ last eight wins have been decided by double-digit margins. CUNE has at times devastated its foes with its wealth of perimeter shooting options and a defense that ranks as one of the stingiest in NAIA Division II. The Bulldogs have knocked down at least 10 treys in nine-straight games, including 15 in the CIT championship victory. CUNE has had a massive advantage in 3-point shooting over its opposition. On the season, the Bulldogs are 240-for-665 (.361) from long range compared to 143-for-464 (.308) 3-point shooting by their foes. Their average of 10.9 3-point field goals per game ranks 12th nationally.
Shuck picked up CIT MVP honors while totaling 31 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots at CIT. Shuck’s return to form has been a key. He provides a 3-point threat along with several others. Four significant contributors are shooting better than 35 percent from beyond the arc: Scarpelli (.419), Carter Kent (.390), Justin Wiersema (.372) and Sloup (.367). Over his last three outings, Scarpelli has averaged 15.0 points while going 11-for-20 on 3-point tries. He posted all 21 of his points versus Morningside in the second half.
Northwestern has been idle since claiming an 89-76 victory over Briar Cliff on Jan. 22. That win snapped a three-game losing streak within the conference. The Red Raiders were ranked 19th at the time they were blown out, 88-65, on their home court by Concordia on Jan. 2. Behind Trent Hilbrands (957 career points), head coach Kris Kover’s squad has the ability to light up a scoreboard. It sports national rankings of seventh in 3-point field goals per game (11.4) and 17th in scoring average (87.0).
Some recent developments have shortened the bench for Dakota Wesleyan, which is trying to get by with a six-player rotation. CUNE would love to get the Tigers back for the 77-57 home loss it was dealt by DWU on Dec. 7. Head coach Matt Wilber’s squad may have suffered some personnel losses, but it remains a dangerous team led by a star in Ty Hoglund, who ranks second among GPAC players in scoring (21.5). Hoglund went just 4-for-16 from the floor in a 73-64 upset loss to Hastings on Jan. 22. The Tigers rank eighth nationally in scoring defense average (67.3).
Coming up next week, the Bulldogs will be on the road for games at Doane (Feb. 5) and at Dordt (Feb. 8).
Concordia (16-6, 7-5 GPAC)
G – Brevin Sloup, Sr., 5-9 (14.7)
G – Justin Wiersema, So., 6-3 (8.3)
G – Carter Kent, So., 6-2 (13.9)
F – Tanner Shuck, Sr., 6-4 (12.4)
F – Chuol Biel, Sr., 6-8 (5.8)
Northwestern (15-7, 7-5 GPAC)
G – Trent Hilbrands, Jr., 6-0 (18.0)
G – Jay Small, Jr., 6-2 (15.3)
G – Keegan Van Egdom, Jr., 6-2 (7.9)
G – Isaac Heyer, Jr., 6-3 (7.0)
F – Craig Sterk, So., 6-7 (13.6)
Dakota Wesleyan (17-4, 9-3 GPAC)
G – Ty Hoglund, Sr., 6-3 (21.5)
F – Koln Oppold, So., 6-4 (5.7)
F – Collin Kramer, Jr., 6-3 (4.9)
F – Mason Larson, So., 6-7 (5.0)
F – Samuel McCloud, Sr., 6-8 (9.6)