SEWARD, Neb. – Fresh off a successful Cattle Classic weekend, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team is looking to continue a strong start to the 2021-22 season with a pair of games this week. The Bulldogs will host Peru State College on Tuesday before opening conference play at Briar Cliff on Saturday. Head Coach Ben Limback’s team is off to a 4-0 start with a win over No. 18 Benedictine College (Kan.).
By the numbers
· Concordia has started a season 4-0 for the fourth time during Limback’s tenure (which began with the 2013-14 season). The longest unbeaten run to begin a campaign under Limback occurred in 2019-20 when the Bulldogs opened at 5-0 in the process of qualifying for that national tournament in March 2020. In the early going of this season, Concordia is one of three GPAC squads that has yet to drop a game. The other undefeated teams are Jamestown (5-0) and Northwestern (4-0). Another strong week for the Bulldogs could give them a shot at cracking the NAIA top 25 when the next poll is released on Nov. 15.
· Through the first four games, Concordia has earned wins over Friends University (Kan.), Presentation College (S.D.), Waldorf University (Iowa) and Benedictine. The Bulldogs are outscoring their opponents, on average, 85.0 to 63.5, and own significant advantages in field goal percentage, .472 to .397, and in turnover margin (plus-27). The Bulldogs have won each of their first four contests by margins of 15 points or greater. They will expect to improve upon their current 3-point percentage of .311.
· The stars have played like stars through four games. Carter Kent and Justin Wiersema represented Concordia on the All-Cattle Classic team. Wiersema hasn’t missed a beat since the end of last season and is averaging 18.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 55.1 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, Kent is averaging 16.5 points, 5.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.75 steals per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the floor. In their careers, Kent has accumulated 1,211 points and Wiersema has pushed his point total to 969. Kent now ranks 20th in program history in career scoring.
· Seven different players have started at least once this season for Concordia. The constants have been Kent, Wiersema and Ryan Holt while AJ Watson has started three times. Off the bench, Noah Schutte has gotten consistent minutes and has produced 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Watson has been given a more significant role and has averaged 13.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game from the point guard spot. Adding to the team’s depth, Gage Smith and Garrett Seagren returned over the weekend. Smith earned Second Team All-GPAC accolades last season.
Peru State has been a familiar nonconference opponent recently with the Bulldogs and Bobcats having gone head-to-head in each of the previous three seasons. Concordia has won two of those three matchups. However, Peru State dealt the Bulldogs a 70-62 defeat last season. So far in 2021-22, the Bobcats have played two GPAC foes and have dropped both games, losing 83-56 at Morningside and 84-75 to Northwestern. Head Coach Bob Ludwig’s squad is looking to bounce back from a 9-15 record last season. Peru State qualified for the national tournament as recently as 2019. The team’s leading scorer this season has been Jibril Harris with an average of 11.0 points per game.
Briar Cliff has gone 2-2 with wins over Bellevue University and Indiana University East. It has dropped games at the hands of Benedictine and Indiana Wesleyan University. Head Coach Mark Svagera’s program is also looking for a return to the national tournament after missing out in each of the past two seasons. Senior forward Kyle Boerhave paces the team in scoring at 16.3 points per game (70.3 percent from the floor). The Bulldogs and Chargers split last season’s two meetings with the home team winning in both instances.
Conference play will continue next week as Concordia hosts Midland on Nov. 17 before heading to Dordt on Nov. 20.