SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Men’s Basketball team did not want to squander its first opportunity to play at home in a month. The star trio of Carter Kent, Gage Smith and Justin Wiersema powered the Bulldogs to an 81-70 victory over Jamestown on Saturday (Jan. 9). Kent really got going after halftime while becoming the program’s 32nd member of the 1,000-point club.
Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad earned a victory to begin a stretch of six home games over the final eight regular-season outings. Concordia has moved to 12-6 overall and to 9-4 in the GPAC.
“We shot better tonight and defensively we forced 16 turnovers and that led to some layups and some breakaways,” Limback said. “The identity of this team needs to be our hunger and our defensive effort. Certainly it was there tonight.”
Three weeks earlier in the 89-87 overtime loss at Jamestown, the Bulldogs allowed mega star Mason Walters to go wild for 38 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. This time around, Concordia at least managed to contain Walters (22 points on 9-for-16 shooting) to some degree. Meanwhile, Smith (22), Kent (20) and Wiersema (16) combined for 58 points in rediscovering the hot hand.
Concordia shot 57.9 percent (33-for-57) from the floor and limited its turnovers to 10. In another key factor, the Bulldogs surrendered only five offensive rebounds (31-30 rebounding edge) against one of the nation’s best rebounding teams.
“We learned a lot (from the loss at Jamestown),” Kent said. “Walters is a great player. He’s super hard to stop. We had to game plan a lot around him. We knew he was going to score a lot, but it’s about making those shots difficult and preventing the threes. It was hard to go into a break from that (first meeting with the Jimmies). I feel like we learned a lot and bounced back.”
Concordia is always going to be tough to beat when its top players perform like this. Kent poured in 14 of his 20 points in the second half (6-for-8 from the field after halftime). Smith was also fantastic in supplying nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. He and Wiersema are like Energizer Bunnies. Wiersema posted nine rebounds and four assists of his own.
Kent set the tone after halftime with a trey that pushed him past 1,000 career points. The Bulldogs never trailed the rest of the way. Concordia build an advantage as large as 13 points and always found an answer whenever Jamestown threatened to claw back into it. Smith added an exclamation mark with a three-point play in the closing minute. Ryan Holt pitched in with eight points and four rebounds and AJ Watson and Grant Wragge supplied six points apiece.
Said Limback of Kent, “I think the wins and the camaraderie with his teammates are what he’s going to remember most. It’s a lot more special to score 1,000 points in a game that you win.”
Added Kent, “It’s all about my teammates. I wouldn’t have reached that mark without them – past and present teammates … It’s definitely a good feeling, but it’s all credit to them.”
Jamestown shot a solid 49.1 percent (26-for-53) from the field. Outside of Walters, the Jimmies got a good chunck of their production off the bench, courtesy of Allante’ Pickens (14 points) and Jack Talley (12 points). Two days earlier, Jamestown (12-4, 8-3 GPAC) escaped Midland with 49-47 win at the buzzer.
The Bulldogs will hit the road on Wednesday night when they are slated to take on Mount Marty (7-10, 4-8 GPAC). Tipoff from Cimpl Arena in Yankton, S.D., is set for 8 p.m. CT. Concordia will aim for a regular season sweep of the Lancers, a team it defeated at home, 82-71, on Dec. 9. Mount Marty has dropped five-straight games, including Saturday’s 94-83 loss at Dordt.