Rally comes up short in pulse-pounder at No. 18 Morningside

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 2, 2021 in Men's Basketball

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – It was a down-to-the-wire battle between two squads with hopes of reigning atop the GPAC by season’s end. Unfortunately for the visitors on Wednesday (Dec. 1), Morningside continues to be an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle. The Concordia University Men’s Basketball team couldn’t quite overcome a sluggish first half in a what amounted to a 79-77 loss to the 18th-ranked Mustangs in Sioux City, Iowa.

Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad returned to GPAC action for the first time since last week’s victory over 10th-ranked Jamestown. Both losses for the Bulldogs (8-2, 3-2 GPAC) have come in Sioux City.

“The first half we didn’t seem to have the fight or belief that we could win this game,” Limback said. “That was the challenge at halftime. They played with more effort than we did in the first half. Second half, I thought we really settled in. Sam Scarpelli off the bench was really big and Gage Smith made some plays and everybody fed off it. I loved our second half – we just didn’t make the plays down the stretch. To come on the road and dig a hole in the first half, our takeaway is to learn from it.”

Concordia picked up its intensity in the second half with the aid of the spark that Scarpelli provided. Scarpelli sank both a layup and a trey during a 9-0 run that got the Bulldogs within three (57-54) midway through the second half and made it a barn burner the rest of the way. Concordia even held a four-point lead (77-73) with under a minute-and-a-half to go following Carter Kent’s trey.

Just seconds away from a potential overtime, the Mustangs turned to big man Trey Brown, who muscled his way to the game-winning basket with 2.5 seconds left on the clock. The Bulldogs got one last look, but Smith’s 35-footer banked off the backboard and rimmed out. Morningside (6-1, 4-0 GPAC) could finally exhale with its 12th-straight series win over Concordia in hand.

Kent enjoyed a monster second half on his way to a 20-point night. He was also highly commended by Limback for his defensive work on Mustang leading scorer Aidan Vanderloo, who went 0-for-5 from the floor and failed to score. Meanwhile, Noah Schutte made his first seven shot attempts and notched 17 points. Scarpelli finished with 10 points and three assists while Justin Wiersema put up nine points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. Smith chipped in with eight points and seven rebounds.

Brown paced the Mustangs with 20 points and eight rebounds. Other double-figure scorers for Morningside were Will Pottebaum (15), Zach Imig (10) and Joey Skoff (10). Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the floor while rebounds (31-30 Concordia edge) and turnovers (14-11 Morningside advantage) were mostly a wash.

The Bulldogs will expect to put together a full 40 minutes next time on the road. Said Limback, “Every night you have to show up for both halves and compete. Morningside’s a good team and they’re going to win games on the road and at home. We had a chance to win at the end and steal one on the road. The expectations for this team are high, and I think we know that was one we could have had. It’s going to hurt. Hopefully it motivates us to be better next time out.”

This was a reunion of sorts for Concordia assistant coach Ryan Tegtmeier, a former standout player at Morningside. As for the Mustangs, they have a first-year head coach in Trent Miller, who took over from Jim Sykes.

The Bulldogs will return home on Saturday to host Northwestern (8-3, 1-2 GPAC) for a 3:45 p.m. CT tipoff from Friedrich Arena. Concordia has won each of the previous five meetings with the Red Raiders. The Bulldogs are 21-1 over their past 22 home games (eight wins in a row).