SEWARD, Neb. – Only four games remain in the regular season as the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team shakes off an extended idle stretch late in the campaign. The Bulldogs will have had 10 consecutive days without a game by the time Wednesday’s contest at Dordt tips off in Sioux Center, Iowa. Concordia will then return home to host 16th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad will play its final three games of the regular season inside Friedrich Arena.
Concordia (14-7, 11-5) at Dordt (15-7, 10-7)
Wednesday, Feb. 3 | 8 p.m.
DeWitt Gymnasium | Sioux Center, Iowa
Webcast: Dordt Media Network
Live Stats: Dakstats
Radio: 104.9 KTMX-FM Max Country
Commentator: Evan Jones
Concordia (14-7, 11-5) vs. (16) Dakota Wesleyan (16-4, 12-3)
Saturday, Feb. 6 | 6 p.m.
Friedrich Arena | Seward, Neb.
Webcast/Live Stats: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 KTMX-FM Max Country
Commentator: Evan Jones
*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 195 of 229 NAIA men’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.
Scoring Offense: 81.6 (57th)
Scoring Defense: 72.7 (57th)
FG% Offense: .464 (T-64th)
FG% Defense: .449 (T-107th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .334 (112th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .347 (T-112th)
Free Throw%: .702 (T-87th)
Rebound Margin: +4.76 (51st)
Turnover Margin: +1.71 (55th)
Scoring Offense: 82.8 (49th)
Scoring Defense: 76.3 (93rd)
FG% Offense: .500 (T-14th)
FG% Defense: .452 (117th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .355 (T-74th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .362 (T-149th)
Free Throw%: .719 (T-58th)
Rebound Margin: +2.36 (72nd)
Turnover Margin: +0.18 (104th)
Scoring Offense: 76.5 (110th)
Scoring Defense: 69.6 (22nd)
FG% Offense: .466 (T-62nd)
FG% Defense: .429 (T-57th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .348 (90th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .310 (T-34th)
Free Throw%: .735 (33rd)
Rebound Margin: +2.15 (75th)
Turnover Margin: +1.05 (70th)
Protocols for fans
At Dordt: Tickets must be purchased online prior to attending games at Dordt. To purchase tickets for Wednesday’s game, visit: https://www.dordt.edu/athletics/tickets. Tickets will not be sold at the entrance.
Concordia home games: Consistent with state directed health measures, Concordia will allow up to 50 percent capacity for its home games. Fans are encouraged to purchase advance tickets online (https://www.cune.edu/athletics/tickets). Tickets will also be sold at the door, provided capacity limits have not been reached via online sales.
--NOTE: All GPAC events require fans to wear face coverings. To review specific COVID-19 protocols for the GPAC and its member institutions, visit: http://www.gpacsports.com/gpac-covid19-fan-protocols.
Concordia has not played since handing Briar Cliff an 81-58 drubbing on Jan. 23. Carter Kent exploded for 24 points in the win. The Bulldogs have actually played only twice since Jan. 13. If things had gone as originally scheduled, the Concordia Invitational Tournament would have taken place in Seward this past weekend. The Bulldogs put together a solid month of January, going 4-2 with noteworthy wins coming at home over Jamestown and on the road at Northwestern. As things stand, Concordia is on track to play out the 25-game regular season that was reconfigured in order to meet COVID-19 schedule guidelines. The Bulldogs did play against a group of alumni this past Saturday in order to stay game ready.
In the rankings
In the official GPAC rankings released last week, Concordia landed at No. 4 behind Morningside, Dakota Wesleyan and Jamestown. The Bulldogs did not garner any votes in the NAIA top 25 poll. Three losses in particular sting – the nonconference defeats at the hands of Tabor College (Kan.) and Peru State College and the overtime defeat at Jamestown. In the loss to the Jimmies, Concordia was unable to protect a lead in the final minute of regulation. Massey Ratings view the Bulldogs more favorably, ranking them at 24th in the NAIA. The program last appeared in an NAIA top 25 poll during the 2010-11 season.
In a typical season, Concordia would play 30 regular-season games. With the reduction to 25 for 2020-21, long layoffs have become part of the deal. By season’s end, the Bulldogs will have had four different stretches in which they will have had eight days off between games. After coming back from Thanksgiving, Concordia was sharp in an 83-66 win at Doane on Nov. 30. However, the Bulldogs appeared a bit sluggish in their 70-62 loss at Peru State College that broke up the holiday break after Christmas. The Bulldogs hope they can bottle up the type of performance they put together last time out in the 81-58 rout of Briar Cliff.
The big three
Some outsiders may have thought Concordia would take a step back after it graduated three starters from the 2019-20 national tournament team. However, the Bulldogs have regrouped quite well behind its core trio of Justin Wiersema, Carter Kent and Gage Smith. The leaps forward made by Wiersema (17.0 ppg, 57.9 fg%) and Smith (12.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg) have been especially obvious while Kent continues to excel at both ends of the floor. Concordia is especially tough to handle when Kent is clicking like he has at times recently. He’s notched 20 points or more in three of the past four games and has reached that total 12 times in his career.
While the ‘big three’ mentioned above grab a lot of the headlines for their productivity, the Bulldogs are a top four GPAC contender thanks also to the efforts of Ryan Holt, Sam Scarpelli, Klay Uher, AJ Watson, Grant Wragge and others. In the win over Briar Cliff, Watson supplied 12 points and three assists in one of his strongest outings so far this season. A consistent veteran, Holt is contributing 8.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Scarpelli also provides an emotional boost while steadying the point guard position. At times this season, others like Cory Davila, Jackson Hirschfeld, Noah Schutte and Thomas Young have made contributions to victories.
There’s plenty of jockeying to be done down the stretch as Concordia tries to position itself for another home game in the GPAC tournament quarterfinals. The race for a GPAC title remains up for grabs with Morningside (14-3), Dakota Wesleyan (12-3) and Jamestown (12-4) currently the frontrunners. The Bulldogs are in fifth place, but they have a leg up on fourth-place Northwestern (12-5) being that they defeated the Red Raiders twice. Concordia is not mathematically out of the running for the GPAC regular-season title, but it would likely need to win out – and get some help. The Mustangs are back in the top 10 of the NAIA poll at No. 9.
Things have been a bit up and down for Dordt, which has followed an eight-game win streak with a three-game skid. The Defenders remain an efficient offensive team that is shooting 50 percent from the field. Freshman Jacob Vis is shooting 64.8 percent from the floor while averaging 12.5 points per game. Senior Garrett Franken leads the way with averages of 15.9 points and 7.4 points per game. Head Coach Brian Van Haaften is in his third season at Dordt following a tenure of more than 20 years as head coach of NCAA Division III Buena Vista University (Iowa).
Scouting Dakota Wesleyan
Dakota Wesleyan won 13-straight games before dropping three of four in a recent stretch. The Tigers have regrouped with road wins over Briar Cliff and Hastings in their past two outings. Before playing Concordia on Saturday, DWU will host a showdown with first-place Morningside. Head Coach Matt Wilber’s squad has been solid on the defensive end, holding opponents to 69.6 points per game and a shooting percentage of 42.9. Offensively, Nick Harden and Koln Oppold are the top two options. The Tigers are aiming to reach the national tournament for the seventh year in a row.
The Bulldogs will play only once next week. They will host Hastings (6-15, 2-14 GPAC) at 8 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Feb. 10. Concordia is slated to end the regular season on Saturday, Feb. 20 when Doane (6-16, 3-14 GPAC) will be in town.
Concordia (14-7, 11-5)
G – Carter Kent, Jr. (15.2)
G – Sam Scarpelli, Sr. (6.0)
G – Justin Wiersema, Jr. (17.0)
F – Ryan Holt, Sr. (8.0)
F – Gage Smith, Jr. (12.5)
Dordt (15-7, 10-7)
G – Jesse Jansma, Sr. (14.7)
G – Ben Gesink, Sr. (6.1)
F – Jacob Vis Fr. (12.5)
F – Cade Bleeker, So. (11.0)
F – Garrett Franken, Sr. (15.9)
Dakota Wesleyan (16-4, 12-3)
G – Nick Harden, Sr. (16.4)
G – Sawyer Schultz, So. (10.1)
F – Mason Larson, Jr. (11.2)
F – Koln Oppold, Jr. (14.3)
F – Jeffrey Schuch, Jr. (9.9)