HASTINGS, Neb. – Host Hastings had entered the night winner of six of its last seven games and fresh off a 96-72 thumping of then fourth-ranked Briar Cliff. But on Wednesday night (Jan. 24), the Concordia University men’s basketball team dropped the hammer on the Broncos. The Bulldogs blistered the Lynn Farrell Arena nets by shooting 60.3 percent in a 93-83 win for the visitors.
Fifth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad has impressively rebounded from a three-game skid by winning three in a row – all by double-digit margins. Concordia, now tied for fourth in the GPAC standings, sits at 15-6 overall and at 7-5 in conference play.
“It was a battle of two different style,” Limback said. “They’re big and physical and try to pound it inside. We try to spread you out and utilize our speed and perimeter scoring. We did a great job. Kyle (Pierce) was really good and guys fed off that. We started moving the ball and our spacing and ability to attack their close outs was giving us great looks in the first half.”
The final score actually made this game appear much closer than it really was. The Bulldogs led by as many as 24 points in a surprisingly comfortable road triumph that made for a regular-season sweep of Hastings (15-8, 5-6 GPAC). Concordia started the game 17-for-23 from the floor and 7-for-9 from 3-point range in an onslaught that left the Broncos shell-shocked. Hastings couldn’t keep up even though it shot well in its own right (54.2 percent from the floor).
The rise of Kyle Pierce continues in his senior season. The lanky 6-foot-5 native of Haxtun, Colo., tallied six of the Bulldogs’ first eight points and didn’t stop until he had a career best 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds and three steals. Pierce and the rest of the starting five operated at peak offensive efficiency. They each racked up at least 14 points while collectively going 33-for-49 (.673) from the field.
Really, they just didn’t miss – much. Pierce went 7-for-12. Jake Hornick went 7-for-10 and had 17 points. Cordell Gillingham went 7-for-10 and tallied 16 points. Clay Reimers was a near perfect 6-for-7 with 14 points. Finally, Tanner Shuck knocked down 6-of-10 shots for 14 points. All this damage was inflicted upon a Hastings team that came into Wednesday ranked second in the GPAC in field goal percentage defense (.434).
The only senior on the roster, Pierce has ramped up his production in a big way for a Concordia squad that has surprised some outsiders.
“He was spectacular,” Limback said of Pierce. “When Clay and Zach (Friel) got fouls in the first half we went small with him. He did a great job of fighting defensively as well. To lead us in scoring and rebounding just shows his heart and the urgency you want out of that senior.”
Four Broncos made their way into double figures in scoring, led by 16 points from Tyler Hedlund. Hastings was unable to return the favor after falling at Concordia, 81-75, on Dec. 6.
The goal before the week is out is for the Bulldogs to claim their 28th Concordia Invitational Tournament title all-time. CUNE will draw Concordia University, Ann Arbor (7-14) at 3 p.m. CT on Friday in what will be the first men’s game of the event. All 2018 CIT games will take place on the Concordia University, Wisconsin campus, home to R. John Buuck Field House.
“I felt like they knew the importance of Wednesday’s game,” Limback said. “There are a lot of things that can distract you with CIT coming up. I felt like our guys locked in and knew it was important.”