Hiatus ends with return to GPAC action in clashes with Midland, Jamestown

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 27, 2023 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – A bye in the conference slate meant that Concordia University Men’s Basketball went the entire week of Thanksgiving without a game. The most recent action for the Bulldogs came on Nov. 18 when they dropped a nailbiter at No. 18 Northwestern, 78-74. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad will return to the conference grind this week as it looks ahead to matchups with Midland (away) on Wednesday and with Jamestown (home) on Saturday. After hosting the Jimmies this weekend, the Bulldogs will go until Jan. 6 before reappearing inside Friedrich Arena.

This Week

Wednesday, Nov. 29 at Midland (2-5, 0-3 GPAC), 7:45 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Wikert Event Center (Fremont, Neb.)

Saturday, Dec. 2 vs. Jamestown (2-5, 1-2 GPAC), 3:45 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

Buy Tickets to home events

By the numbers

·        Concordia stands at 3-2 overall (0-2 GPAC) while in search of its first conference win of the 2023-24 season. According to the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, the Bulldogs have already played the GPAC’s top two teams: Morningside (5-1, 3-0 GPAC) and Northwestern (6-0, 2-0 GPAC). Concordia competed closely with both teams while suffering defeats by scores of 101-89 at the hands of the Mustangs and 78-74 while up against the Red Raiders. From an offensive perspective, Concordia shot 50.0 percent (30-for-60) from the floor versus Morningside and 42.6 percent (26-for-61) from the field at Northwestern. Schutte and Smith both hit the 20-point mark in those two outings. Schutte went for 23 and 20, respectively, and Smith totaled 20 and 24, respectively. The matchup in Orange City, Iowa, went right down to the wire. Dillon Carlson’s trey in the final seconds pushed Northwestern’s lead from one to four points and proved to be the backbreaker. Morningside and Northwestern are a combined 11-1 so far this season.

·        In other words, the Mustangs and Red Raiders have backed up their preseason national rankings. They are two of the four GPAC teams currently sporting unblemished league records: Morningside (3-0), Hastings (3-0), Northwestern (2-0) and Briar Cliff (2-0). On the flip side, Concordia is one of three teams looking for that first GPAC win, joining Midland (0-3) and Mount Marty (0-3). There will be a new NAIA coaches’ poll released on Wednesday. In the most recent national poll (unveiled on Nov. 8), there were four GPAC teams that received mention: No. 18 Northwestern, No. 19 Morningside, No. 23 Dordt and (receiving votes) Briar Cliff. The Chargers (8-1 overall) have been one of the league’s early surprises.

·        A native of Laurel, Neb., Schutte entered this season as both a GPAC Player of the Year and First Team All-America candidate. Now in year four as a Bulldog, Schutte enjoyed a terrific 2022-23 season that saw him average 20.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while posting impressive shooting percentages across the board. He’ll be remembered for the 38-point, 18-rebound performance in the 2023 GPAC quarterfinals at Northwestern. Schutte poured in a school record nine 3-point field goals in that road victory. Over 88 career collegiate games, Schutte has totaled 1,267 points and 495 rebounds. He has climbed to No. 20 on the program’s all-time scoring list. He most recently passed Bret Walter (1,248) and now has his sights set on former teammate Justin Wiersema (1,276).

·        Sophomore guard Jaxon Weyand had missed this season’s first four games before he made his return in the matchup at Northwestern. Weyand got the start in that game and played 18 minutes. He contributed two points and four assists. The native of Crete, Neb., saw action in 15 games and made 11 starts as a freshman in 2022-23. The other four starters for the Bulldogs have been the same for all five games this season: Lukas Helms, Schutte and Smith in the frontcourt and Brad Bennett in the backcourt. Joel Baker started the first four contests. Through five games, four Concordia players are averaging in double figures in scoring: Schutte (22.0), Smith (18.2), Bennett (10.2) and freshman Brooks Kissinger (10.0). The Ashland, Neb., native Kissinger has been the team’s top performer off the bench and has played an average of 22.8 minutes per game.

·        The win at Benedictine on Nov. 11 marked a milestone for Ben Limback, who earned the 300th victory of his head coaching career. The Concordia alum and former conference player of the year has won 185 games over 10-plus seasons with the Bulldogs. He also won 115 games during a nine-year tenure leading the Concordia University Ann Arbor program. The totals from the two Concordias add up to 300 wins for Limback, the second winningest coach in the history of Bulldog Men’s Basketball. Limback has continued the program’s stability after Grant Schmidt won 445 games over 23 seasons from 1989 to 2012. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, Limback has led the Bulldogs to a combined three GPAC championships and three national tournament appearances.

Concordia Projected Starting Five
G – Brad Bennett, 6-1 (10.2)
G – Jaxon Weyand, 5-11 (2.0)
F – Lukas Helms, 6-6 (3.8)
F – Noah Schutte, 6-4 (22.0)
F – Tristan Smith, 6-5 (18.2)

The opponents

Midland has started 2-5 in the second year of Head Coach Tyler Erwin’s tenure. The team’s overall competitive level has increased compared to a year ago (10-18 record in 2022-23). This past weekend, the Warriors split two tight home games, earning a 69-65 win over in-state Bellevue University. Midland returned Second Team All-GPAC guard Jake Orr, who has missed each of the past five outings. In his absence, transfer guard Derek Merwick has picked up the slack and leads the team with an average of 17.6 points per game. Merwick also averages 6.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per contest. The Warriors have begun conference play with losses to Briar Cliff, 98-90, No. 23 Dordt, 88-78, and Hastings, 85-76. Concordia has won each of the past nine series meetings with Midland.

Midland Projected Starting Five
G – Dominic Humm, 6-0 (8.3)
G – Derek Merwick, 6-0 (17.6)
G – Jake Rueschhoff, 6-2 (12.1)
F – Brayden Thompson, 6-8 (10.9)
F – Colton Uhing, 6-6 (4.3)

Jamestown has experienced upheaval in the early going with former Head Coach Danny Neville having announced his resignation on Nov. 16 – four games into the season. In his place has stepped Greg Ulland (interim head coach), former Jimmie women’s basketball coach (2010-18) and current Jamestown Vice President for Enrollment Management. Since Ulland has taken over, the Jimmies have gone 1-2 with the win being an 89-78 home decision over Doane. From a personnel standpoint, Jamestown has moved on without one of the top players in GPAC history, Mason Walters, the 2022-23 NAIA National Player of the Year. On the plus side, the backcourt returns two 2022-23 Second Team All-GPAC honorees in Will Cordes and Cole Woodford. The team’s leading scorer has been Lewis-Clarke State College transfer Silas Bennion, who is averaging 18.0 points per game. This will be Jamestown’s final season as a member of the GPAC. The Jimmies will compete in the NAIA’s North Star Athletic Association in 2024-25 before making an expected transition to NCAA Division II.

Jamestown Projected Starting Five
G – Silas Bennion, 6-0 (18.0)
G – Will Cordes, 5-11 (13.4)
G – Cole Woodford, 6-1 (13.3)
F – Christian Lietz, 6-4 (4.3)
F – Jimmy Llinas, 6-8 (8.0)

Next week

The Bulldogs will be on the road for two games inside GPAC play as they head to Mount Marty on Dec. 6 and then to Briar Cliff on Dec. 9. Those will be the final two conference contests of the calendar year 2023.