SEWARD, Neb. – Two more GPAC challenges are on the docket this week for the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team, which split a pair of conference games last week. After falling, 70-64, at No. 18 Dakota Wesleyan on Jan. 6, the Bulldogs rebounded with an 81-70 home win over Jamestown a few days later. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad remains in the hunt near the top of the league standings. It will take on Mount Marty and eighth-ranked Morningside this week as the second go-round through the GPAC slate continues.
Concordia (12-6, 9-4) vs. No. 8 Morningside (13-2, 9-2)
Saturday, Jan. 16 | 4 p.m.
Friedrich Arena | Seward, Neb.
Webcast/Live Stats: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentator: Evan Jones
*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 184 of 229 NAIA men’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.
Scoring Offense: 81.6 (68th)
Scoring Defense: 72.1 (41st)
FG% Offense: .459 (T-80th)
FG% Defense: .446 (T-96th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .326 (T-121st)
3-pt FG% Defense: .345 (T-100th)
Free Throw%: .681 (113th)
Rebound Margin: +5.00 (T-45th)
Turnover Margin: +2.33 (T-46th)
Scoring Offense: 74.9 (116th)
Scoring Defense: 75.3 (82nd)
FG% Offense: .434 (T-121st)
FG% Defense: .441 (T-83rd)
3-pt FG% Offense: .331 (T-115th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .343 (T-95th)
Free Throw%: .719 (T-63rd)
Rebound Margin: -4.82 (148th)
Turnover Margin: +1.12 (71st)
Scoring Offense: 79.5 (87th)
Scoring Defense: 68.5 (17th)
FG% Offense: .478 (T-37th)
FG% Defense: .427 (T-51st)
3-pt FG% Offense: .311 (T-142nd)
3-pt FG% Defense: .311 (T-45th)
Free Throw%: .704 (T-84th)
Rebound Margin: +13.00 (5th)
Turnover Margin: +0.07 (93rd)
Protocols for fans
At Mount Marty: Visiting fans are not allowed to attend games at Mount Marty.
Concordia home games: Consistent with state directed health measures, Concordia will allow up to 50 percent capacity for its home games. Fans are encouraged to purchase advance tickets online (https://www.cune.edu/athletics/tickets). Tickets will also be sold at the door, provided capacity limits have not been reached via online sales.
--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.
A better offensive performance at the Corn Palace could have made it a 2-0 week. However, the Bulldogs shot only 35.5 percent at Dakota Wesleyan and slipped, 70-64. It was the first matchup between the two programs since the 2020 GPAC tournament championship game. Concordia returned home and heated up to 57.9 percent shooting in the 81-70 win over Jamestown. The ‘big three’ of Gage Smith (22), Carter Kent (20) and Justin Wiersema (16) combined for 58 points. With a trey early in the second half, Kent eclipsed 1,000 points for his career. A key factor in the victory was a rebounding edge of 31-30 against one of the nation’s best rebounding teams. The Bulldogs were also plus-six in turnovers, helping them overcome 8-for-16 shooting from the foul line.
Kent joins 1,000 point club
Carter Kent now stands at 1,013 career points, making him the 32nd player in program history to join the 1,000 point club. An immediate impact player, Kent has posted season point totals of 322 (10.4 average) as a freshman, 429 (12.6 average) as a sophomore and 262 (14.6 average) so far as a junior. The Crete High School alum has also collected career numbers of 285 rebounds, 188 assists, 154 3-point field goals and 67 steals over 83 collegiate games. Kent graduated from Crete High School as the school’s all-time leader in scoring. Kent has played alongside two other 1,000 point scorers in his career at Concordia – Tanner Shuck (1,579) and Brevin Sloup (1,246).
Smith’s career high
Gage Smith has been a major X-factor for Concordia. When he avoids foul trouble, the Bulldogs have been difficult to beat. Smith returned to form versus Jamestown with a career high 22 points to go along with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Bulldogs are 5-0 this season when Smith scores more than 15 points. He currently sports averages of 11.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game (third most in the GPAC). Smith is one of the most improved players in the GPAC having ramped up his production from averages of 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds last season.
One of GPAC’s finest
The consistency of junior guard Justin Wiersema has been astonishing. In continuing with a regular theme, Wiersema was efficient from the field (13-for-19) last week while totaling 33 points. The Loveland, Colo., native has now scored at least 10 points in 20-straight games, dating back to the end of last season. During that stretch, Wiersema has averaged 16.8 points per game and has shot 58.0 percent from the field, an unusually high percentage for a guard. Wiersema has played like a first team All-GPAC performer. Among conference players, he ranks fourth in scoring (17.1), fourth in steals per game (1.67), fifth in field goal percentage (.586), 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (.414) and 12th in assists per game (2.89).
Concordia has played eight of its first 13 GPAC games on the road. The Bulldogs have held their own away from home while securing conference road victories over Doane, Hastings and Midland. A stretch of five home games over the last six regular-season outings could give Concordia a chance to move up in the GPAC standings. Dating back to last season, the Bulldogs have won 12 home games in a row. They are 7-0 this season when playing inside Friedrich Arena. In those seven home games, Concordia has outscored its opponents by an average of 85.9 to 63.1. The Bulldogs have shot 47.4 percent from the floor and 34.7 percent from 3-point range at Friedrich Arena.
Concordia may not have much margin for error in regards to the GPAC title race, but things got a little tighter over the weekend when first-place Dakota Wesleyan (9-1) fell at Midland. The Bulldogs remain behind DWU, Morningside (9-2) and Jamestown (8-3) at the top of the GPAC standings. Next in line, Dordt (8-4), Briar Cliff (7-5) and Northwestern (6-5) are also in the hunt for top four conference finishes. The Mustangs were pegged as the GPAC preseason favorite.
Scouting Mount Marty
Mount Marty resides in eighth place in the GPAC standings, but the Lancers have a quality win over Jamestown to their credit. Mount Marty raced out to a 13-2 record and a national ranking last season (finished with 20 wins) in the process of breaking ground that the program had not experienced for several years. The Lancers remain a threat thanks to the presence of standouts such as Jailen Billings (who recently eclipsed 1,000 career points) and Elijah Pappas. Todd Lorensen is in his second season as head coach.
Morningside remains a powerhouse in the GPAC under the direction of Head Coach Jim Sykes, who will step away from coaching after this season to take on the role of AD for the Mustangs. Morningside owns a 9-2 conference mark with the two losses coming at the hands of Jamestown and Dakota Wesleyan. In the first meeting with Concordia, the Mustangs shot 58.1 percent from the floor and blew out the Bulldogs, 86-64. After facing Jamestown’s Mason Walters last week, Concordia will attempt to contain another of the league’s top big men in Trey Brown, who is averaging 17.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Before heading to Seward, Morningside will host Briar Cliff on Wednesday.
Limback’s group will have a bye in the middle of next week while preparing to host Briar Cliff on Saturday, Jan. 23. The Bulldogs will also be at home for three of their four regular-season games in February.
Concordia (12-6, 9-4)
G – Carter Kent, Jr. (14.6)
G – Sam Scarpelli, Sr. (6.5)
G – Justin Wiersema, Jr. (17.1)
F – Ryan Holt, Sr. (7.7)
F – Gage Smith, Jr. (11.8)
Mount Marty (7-10, 4-8)
G – Jailen Billings, Sr. (15.6)
G – Keegan Savary, Sr. (2.5)
G – Kade Stearns, So. (5.9)
F – Elijah Pappas, Sr. (14.6)
F – Jonah Larson, Jr. (5.1)
Morningside (13-2, 9-2)
G – Zach Imig, Sr. (12.0)
G – Will Pottebaum, So. (9.7)
G – Aidan Vanderloo, Fr. (9.5)
F – Collin Hill, Jr. (5.1)
C – Trey Brown, Sr. (17.5)