Rally comes up one point short in loss in Hawaii

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 18, 2023 in Men's Basketball

HILO, Hawaii – In a frenetic late rally on Sunday (Dec. 17) night, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team did everything except make one more clutch play. Ultimately, the Bulldogs dropped a 74-73 decision at the hands of NCAA Division II San Francisco State University in their first of two games at the Big Island Holiday Classic in Hilo, Hawaii. Concordia endured defeat despite finishing the game on a 13-4 run that nearly erased a 10-point deficit in the final four-and-a-half minutes.

Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad slipped to 7-3 overall with its first loss in a full month. A victory of a strong Division II opponent would have been a feather in the cap of the Bulldogs.

“We were on the ropes, but we showed a lot of guts and fight and made a nice push at the end,” Limback said. “We had two shots to win it and just didn’t get it done. I told the guys that I was really pleased with how hard we competed. We have to take that burning inside and use it tomorrow. I felt like we responded. We executed down the stretch and fouled who we wanted to foul. That team we played is a national tournament caliber team and we were right there.”

The stars came out in Hawaii as Concordia got a combined 44 points from Tristan Smith and Noah Schutte. They helped will the Bulldogs back from a 70-60 deficit with less than 4:30 to go. Brad Bennett also sparked the surge with a trey. Having trailed by as many as 11 points, Concordia got all the way back within one in the closing minute when Noah Schutte drove for a basket that wound up as a three-point play.

Over the final 30 seconds, the Gators missed the front end of two one-and-ones, but the Bulldogs failed to capitalize. After the second misfire by SFSU, Smith was fouled on his drive to the basket. His two free throws rimmed out. One last gasp came in the form of a heave at the buzzer from Schutte before the Gators (6-4) were able to exhale.

The California Collegiate Athletic Association member SFSU led for the majority of the contest. The 6-foot-8 Jailen Daniel-Dalton was a handful in the paint. He finished the evening with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. He even stepped outside and drained three triples. The Gators sank nine 3-pointers in the first half (ended with 12 treys) before Concordia made perimeter defense more of an emphasis over the final 20 minutes. Tyjean Burrell (12) and Caleb Oden (11) joined Daniel-Dalton in double figures.

The Bulldogs wound up with a 42-38 rebound advantage over their lengthier foe. Concordia shot 44.4 percent (28-for-63) from the floor and 24.2 percent (8-for-33) from 3-point range. Smith collected 24 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Meanwhile, Schutte added 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists. The next high scorers were Jaxon Stueve with seven and Brad Bennett and Tyler Harre with five apiece. In making his first start of the season, Zac Kulus notched four assists.

There’s always reason to believe the Bulldogs have a shot with Schutte and Smith on their side. Said Limback, “Those two guys really made some big plays for us down the stretch. We need them at the end. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our day shooting-wise, but we’ll bounce back.”

Limback’s program had played exhibition games against four NCAA Division II opponents since 2016 (all resulted in losses, including one in overtime). The most recent of those contests came at Rockhurst University (Mo.) in November 2021. The Bulldogs are making their first appearance in Hawaii since December 2019.

The Bulldogs’ second and final game at the Big Island Holiday Classic will get underway at 2 p.m. Hawaii time (6 p.m. CT) on Monday. Concordia will go head-to-head with No. 19 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) at the same venue (Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium). As part of their stay in Hawaii, the Tigers (8-2) will also play GPAC member Hastings on Tuesday.

Live coverage of Monday’s Concordia-Olivet Nazarene clash can be found via the links below:
-Live Webcast ($) | Live Stats.