SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time this season, head coach Ben Limback’s Bulldogs will go up against a ranked opponent when No. 12 Morningside invades Walz Arena for a 4 p.m. tipoff on Saturday. The visiting Mustangs (4-0) are one of 28 NAIA Division II teams with unblemished records in the early season.
Meanwhile, Concordia has righted the ship after a frustrating second-half performance in a loss to Grace University on day one of the Cattle Classic. Since then the Bulldogs have routed both Avila University (Mo.), 89-62, and Mount Marty, 88-70, to give themselves momentum going into this weekend’s big test. Better ball rotation the last two games has produced a combined shooting percentage of 53.7 (58-for-108) following two losses in which Concordia shot below 37.0 percent.
Statistically, 6-foot-7 Robby Thomas does it all for the Bulldogs. He tops the team in scoring (16.8), rebounding (9.4) and blocks (4.0). He also dishes out two assists per game and swipes 1.4 steals per contest. The Shawnee, Kan., native, who ranks second nationally in blocks, is the catalyst for NAIA Division II’s second-rated shot blocking team (7.4 per game).
Behind Thomas, Joel Haywood, Micah Kohlwey and Eli Zieger, Concordia has been lights out from 3-point range. All four are shooting at least 39.5 percent from beyond the arc for a team that ranks 16th nationally in 3-point field goals per game (9.0) and 26th in 3-point field goal percentage (.398). Haywood, Concordia’s lone senior, is second to Thomas with an 11.8 scoring average. Sophomore Chandler Folkerts (10.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.63 bpg) continues to be the team’s top post presence.
Morningside’s impressive 4-0 start has included a pair of wins over top-20 squads – No. 18 William Penn University (112-100) and No. 20 Ashford University (67-54) – and another over a team receiving national votes – Grand View University (86-78). Senior guard Steve O’Neill has fueled the two top-25 wins, going for 31 and 26 points, respectively, in those contests. O’Neill paces the Mustangs with 20.3 points per game. He’s shooting 47.6 percent from long range.
Last season Morningside ranked fifth among all NAIA Division II teams with a 40.3 percentage from beyond the arc. The Mustangs went 25-9 for head coach Jim Sykes and reached the national tournament. Despite saying goodbye to sharpshooter Danny Rudeen, Morningside garnered the No. 2 spot in this year’s GPAC preseason coaches’ poll.
The Mustangs have won each of the last six meetings with the Bulldogs. Concordia is seeking its first win over Morningside since sweeping two regular-season games from the Mustangs during the 2010-11 campaign. In last season’s meeting in Seward, Morningside made 13 of 21 triples on the way to an 85-67 win inside Walz Arena. Tanner Miller enjoyed a big day for the Mustangs, going 5-for-7 on 3-point attempts en route to a game high 19 points.