SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Men’s Basketball team is looking forward to a return to action for the first time since its overtime clash at Jamestown on Dec. 18. The Bulldogs will dip outside of conference play for the final time this regular season when they head to Peru State College on Wednesday. GPAC action will then resume on Saturday with a journey to Northwestern for a completion of the regular-season series with the Red Raiders. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad enters the week at 10-4 overall.
Concordia (10-4, 7-3) at Northwestern (9-4, 5-4)
Saturday, Jan. 2 | 4 p.m.
Bultman Center | Orange City, Iowa
Webcast: Red Raiders All-Access
Live Stats: Sidearm Sports
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentator: Evan Jones
*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 173 of 229 NAIA men’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.
Scoring Offense: 84.4 (54th)
Scoring Defense: 72.4 (50th)
FG% Offense: .474 (T-50th)
FG% Defense: .438 (T-75th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .355 (T-70th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .351 (109th)
Rebound Margin: +7.14 (38th)
Turnover Margin: +1.57 (T-59th)
Scoring Offense: 78.0 (T-95th)
Scoring Defense: 75.9 (78th)
FG% Offense: .466 (T-68th)
FG% Defense: .438 (T-75th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .348 (83rd)
3-pt FG% Defense: .266 (T-13th)
Rebound Margin: +1.73 (83rd)
Turnover Margin: -1.36 (117th)
Scoring Offense: 88.9 (33rd)
Scoring Defense: 77.2 (95th)
FG% Offense: .538 (T-6th)
FG% Defense: .460 (T-119th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .396 (T-21st)
3-pt FG% Defense: .397 (159th)
Rebound Margin: +5.08 (53rd)
Turnover Margin: -0.69 (105th)
Protocols for fans
At Peru State: Peru State is currently not allowing visiting fans to attend games at the Wheeler Activity Center.
At Northwestern: Northwestern is currently allowing up to 50 percent capacity at the Bultman Center. For more on fan attendance policies at Northwestern, please visit: https://nwcraiders.com/news/2020/9/3/general-nw-gpac-release-covid-fan-protocols.aspx.
--NOTE: All GPAC events require fans to wear face coverings. To review specific COVID-19 protocols for the GPAC and its member institutions, visit: http://www.gpacsports.com/gpac-covid19-fan-protocols.
In the most recent week of action, the Bulldogs earned a 95-81 win at Midland on Dec. 15 before letting a late lead slip away in an 89-87 overtime loss at Jamestown on Dec. 18. In a long stretch of road contests, Concordia will end up playing just one home game during the month of December (82-71 win over Mount Marty on Dec. 9). In the aforementioned triumph at Midland, the Bulldogs were sharp offensively while shooting 60.7 percent from the field and 50 percent (16-for-32) from beyond the arc. Carter Kent paced the team with 21 points. Concordia came up a hair short at Jamestown in a game it led by as many as 17 points and held a four-point advantage in the final minute of regulation. Jimmie star post Mason Walters poured in 38 points.
GPAC midway point
At 7-3 in league play, the Bulldogs have hit the midway point of the conference regular-season slate. That record represents the program’s best GPAC record after 10 games during Limback’s tenure (began in 2013-14) and the best for the program since the 2009-10 team started out 8-2 in the conference. After capturing the GPAC tournament title last season, Concordia entered this season with hopes of competing for a conference regular-season championship (a feat never achieved by the program during the GPAC era). The top GPAC regular-season mark under Limback was the 12-8 record posted last season.
Kent heats up
It was only a matter of time before junior Carter Kent began to heat up with his shooting stroke. Over the past three games, Kent has averaged 18.7 points while shooting 48.6 percent (18-for-37) from the floor. Kent’s current season field goal percentage of 37.1 figures to continue to climb as the season wears on. The Crete High School product is creeping up on 1,000 career points. He enters the week having totaled 943 points in 79 career collegiate games. Kent finished his high school career as the all-time leading scorer at Crete.
Wiersema continues streak
No player has been a more consistent force for the Bulldogs than junior Justin Wiersema. The native of Loveland, Colo., posted 14 points at Midland and 19 at Jamestown. Those efforts pushed his own personal streak of consecutive games with at least 10 points to 16. A contributor in all areas, Wiersema has been impressively efficient. He leads all GPAC guards with a shooting percentage of 60.5. He’s also shooting 44.0 percent from 3-point range and 69.4 percent from the foul line. Wiersema has averaged exactly 10.0 points per game through the first 71 games of his college career. He leads the team with a scoring average of 17.3 this season.
Chucking it from the cheap seats
Kent and Wiersema are two of several players who can shoot it from long distance. The Bulldogs enter the week leading all NAIA teams in total 3-point field goals made with 156. Six Concordia players have netted at least 16 3-point field goals this season: Wiersema (33), Kent (28), Sam Scarpelli (23), Ryan Holt (17), AJ Watson (17) and Gage Smith (16). In other words, all six players average more than 1.0 made 3-point field goal per game. Last season’s team broke the program record for a single season by knocking down 382 treys (36.7 percent).
The loss at Jamestown stung from a perspective of attempting to keep pace with the top of GPAC. Concordia currently resides in fourth place in the conference, behind Dakota Wesleyan (7-0), Morningside (7-2) and Jamestown (6-2). In the official GPAC poll released on Dec. 14, the Bulldogs appeared at No. 4 following Morningside, Dakota Wesleyan and Northwestern. With three league losses, Concordia may not have much room for error left if it is to end the program’s conference regular-season title drought.
Scouting Peru State
The Bulldogs met the Bobcats in Seward last December with the result being a 109-60 pummeling in favor of Concordia. A member of the NAIA’s Heart of America Athletic Conference, Peru State reached the national tournament as recently as the 2018-19 season. From a statistical standpoint, the Bobcats have stood out in the category of 3-point field goal percentage defense (.266). Head Coach Bob Ludwig’s squad has a reliable No. 1 scorer in Henry Tanksley (18.6 points/game).
The Red Raiders have dropped four-straight meetings with the Bulldogs, including three matchups during the 2019-20 season. Back on Nov. 14, Concordia held off a late Northwestern rally in a 77-74 victory. Head Coach Kris Korver’s squad presents a significant challenge to opposing defenses. The Red Raiders rank sixth nationally in field goal percentage (.538) behind freshman star Alex Van Kalsbeek, who averages 21.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. They can also score from the perimeter with the help of guards such as Trent Hilbrands and Jay Small. Northwestern will host Presentation on Wednesday before turning its attention to the Bulldogs.
Several home games are on the way, but Concordia will also be on the road on Wednesday, Jan. 6 for a battle at 18th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan. The Bulldogs will then welcome Jamestown to Friedrich Arena for a matchup on Saturday, Jan. 9.
Concordia (10-4, 7-3)
G – Carter Kent, Jr. (13.7)
G – Sam Scarpelli, Sr. (7.1)
G – Justin Wiersema, Jr. (17.3)
F – Ryan Holt, Sr. (7.7)
F – Gage Smith, Jr. (12.5)
Peru State (6-5)
G – Tyrece Griggs, Fr. (5.7)
G – Henry Tanksley, Sr. (18.6)
G – Skyler Wilson, Fr. (11.2)
F – Craig Jordan, Jr. (10.1)
F – Isaac Simpson, Jr. (6.3)
Northwestern (9-4, 5-4)
G – Isaac Heyer, Sr. (7.7)
G – Trent Hilbrands, Sr. (15.1)
G – Grant DeMeulenaere, Jr. (2.9)
G – Jay Small, Sr. (15.8)
F – Alex Van Kalsbeek, Fr. (21.2)