SEWARD, Neb. – This wasn’t your routine Tuesday evening nonconference tilt. By night’s end, everyone playing – or in attendance – needed a breather and maybe a little Pepto Bismol. When the buzzer sounded, Ryan Holt was embraced by a mob of teammates following his game-winning trey in the final seconds. Holt’s heroics completed a comeback from eight points down and lifted the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team to a 91-90 victory over visiting Peru State College.
This one may have aged Head Coach Ben Limback, but he’s not going to complain too much about a squad that is finding different ways to win. The Bulldogs are now 5-0 on the season.
“It’s incredible – that was just a tremendous game,” Limback said. “Twenty-two (Jibril Harris) had an amazing night. He was tough to stop and we had to switch to zone. I thought we lost our composure a little bit in the second half. The switch flipped and we were fortunate enough to have a play at the end to try to tie it. I though Ryan Holt had a tremendous game even before that (game winner). He comes out in the corner and hits a big shot. We survived – and that’s what team’s have to do.”
There was a bit of a survive-and-advance feel to this one. Offensive fireworks characterized the night, but Concordia would have had no chance if it had not been able to dig in defensively. The tactical move to a zone press finally resulted in a series of stops. Peru State went cold after Tyrece Grigg’s triple with 6:01 remaining pushed the Bobcat lead to 87-79. Peru State went just 1-for-7 from the floor and turned it over twice in the closing six minutes.
A misfire by the Bobcats in the final 30 seconds gave the Bulldogs, down 90-88, a shot. After a timeout, the ball ended up in AJ Watson’s hands at the top of the key. Watson dribbled into the paint, briefly lost control, then pitched the ball into the left corner for Holt, who cold-bloodedly sunk the game winner. An errant desperation shot by Peru State at the buzzer set Friedrich Arena into a frenzy.
Holt was emotionally and physically drained at that point. Said Holt, “It was a mix of being happy, really exhausted – I could barely breathe out there – and confidence. I knew as soon as I touched it and AJ threw it to me, it was going in. I just felt it. As soon as it went in, I was like, ‘We’ve got to get back on D, there’s still some time on the clock.’ It was a mix of all the emotions.”
The final tally of 24 points represented a career high for Holt, who went 10-for-14 from the floor, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Four teammates joined him in double figures in the scoring column: Carter Kent (19), Gage Smith (18), Noah Schutte (13) and Watson (10). Justin Wiersema added seven points, eight rebounds and seven assists. The Bulldogs shot a blistering 55.2 percent (37-for-67) from the field.
Concordia needed each of those field goals to keep pace with Peru State (1-4), which played plenty well enough to win on Tuesday. The Bulldogs struggled mightily to contain Harris, a transfer from NCAA Division I Mississippi Valley State. The 6-foot-8 Harris wound up with 32 points on 13-for-16 shooting from the field. Once Concordia focused more attention on Harris, the Peru State backcourt went wild from long range. The Bobcats finished 14-for-27 (.519) from beyond the arc. Harris and company managed to turn a 12-point first-half deficit into a lead as large as eight in the second half.
Three days after winning a slugfest, 68-53, over No. 18 Benedictine College (Kan.), the Bulldogs had to win with offensive firepower. Said Holt of what it took on Tuesday, “A lot of mental toughness. It comes down to how well we can play together, making the smart plays and getting the right shots … We just have to keep playing together and pull through.”
GPAC play will get started on Saturday when the Bulldogs are set to venture to Sioux City, Iowa, for a matchup with Briar Cliff (2-2, 0-0 GPAC). Tipoff from the Newman Flanagan Center is set for 6:45 p.m. CT. Last season, the two sides split their regular season meetings with the home team winning in both instances.