Rivalry matchup with Doane set for Wednesday

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 7, 2022 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Coming off a 2-0 week within the GPAC, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team can put its sole focus on Wednesday’s matchup at Doane. Every game these days carries a great degree of significance with the Bulldogs residing one-half game behind Briar Cliff at the top of the league standings. In last week’s action, Concordia won at Midland, 92-87, and then blew out Dordt at home, 92-62. Those results leave Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad at 20-5 overall (13-4 GPAC). After playing in Crete on Wednesday, the Bulldogs will be idle the rest of the week.

This Week

Wednesday, Feb. 9 at Doane (15-11, 8-8 GPAC), 7:45 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country

By the numbers

·        With two weeks to go in the regular season, it appears that the GPAC regular season title chase will come down to Concordia and Briar Cliff (13-3 GPAC). Jamestown (11-6 GPAC) and Northwestern (10-6 GPAC) will need a lot to happen for a chance to even share the conference crown. Because the Bulldogs host the Chargers on Feb. 16, they control their own destiny in terms of earning at least a share for a GPAC regular season title. Concordia last won a conference regular season championship in 1995-96 when it was a member of the Nebraska-Iowa Athletic Conference. Meanwhile, Briar Cliff is looking for its first GPAC regular season title since 2016-17. The Bulldogs celebrated GPAC tournament titles in 2003, 2005 and 2020.

·        Under Limback, the Bulldogs have reached the 20-win mark for the third time. Limback guided the 2016-17 squad to a 21-10 mark and the 2019-20 GPAC postseason championship team to a 24-10 record. The 24 wins in 2019-20 were the most for the program since the 2004-05 national runner up team set a new program single season standard with 32 victories. Going back throughout the GPAC era, Concordia also posted at least 20 wins in 2000-01 (20-13), 2002-03 (25-9) and 2003-04 (20-9). Were it not for the cancellation of CIT, the current Bulldogs may have put a couple more wins on the board by now. Limback’s record as head coach at CUNE now sits at 156-111.

·        The Bulldogs shot the lights out last week in scoring exactly 92 points in both outings. Concordia made 36-of-59 (.610) attempts from the floor at Midland while being led by the 21-point outburst from Justin Wiersema. Additional double-figure scorers for the victors included Carter Kent (17), Noah Schutte (15) and Gage Smith (15). The final score was a bit misleading in that the Bulldogs held a double-digit lead for nearly the entire second half (largest lead of 18) before the Warriors made a late run. Midland did its best to keep up by shooting 55.2 percent from the floor. Bo Sandquist led the home team with 20 points.

·        The clash with Dordt became a surprisingly one-sided affair after Concordia led by just two (39-37) at halftime. After the break, the Bulldogs drained 10 treys and put together separate runs of 8-0 and 14-5 that left the Defenders in the dust. Once again, offensive balance was a theme. Seven Concordia players scored at least eight points: Schutte (18), Tristan Smith (14), Sam Scarpelli (11), AJ Watson (11), Justin Wiersema (11) and Gage Smith (10). Watson added eight assists and six rebounds to his stat line and was referred to by Limback as the player of the game. The Bulldogs went 17-for-43 from 3-point range and shot 53.1 percent overall. Concordia also enjoyed a 40-29 advantage on the boards. Gage Smith collected 12 rebounds for a double-double.

·        With 25 combined points last week, Kent’s career total has moved to 1,574. He remains in ninth place on the program’s all-time list but needs just six more to pass former teammate Tanner Shuck (1,579) for No. 8. Kent has played at an All-America level this season, averaging 17.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the floor, 37.6 percent from 3-point range and 85.1 percent from the foul line. The Crete High School alum has been named the Bulldog Athletic Association Athlete of the Month the past two months.

·        Briar Cliff remained at No. 1 in the official GPAC rating released on Monday. However, it could certainly be argued that the Bulldogs are deserving of that perch. Concordia is currently the GPAC’s highest rated team in terms of the ratings percentage index (19th) and Massey Ratings (15th). In addition, the Bulldogs have a comfortable lead among league teams in scoring margin within conference play at plus-8.2. For comparison, Briar Cliff is plus-5.5 and Jamestown is plus-6.3. No GPAC team has been able to touch Concordia inside Friedrich Arena. The Bulldogs own a 16-game home win streak overall and have won each of their past 13 GPAC home games by double-digit margins.

The opponent
Doane has shown it can compete with just about anyone in the GPAC. The Tigers own road wins over Jamestown and Morningside and just narrowly lost at home, 84-83 in overtime, to Northwestern over the weekend. Head Coach Ian McKeithen’s squad boasts three players averaging more than 12 points per game: Josiah Gardiner (15.5), Anthony Laravie (13.8) and Alec Oberhauser (12.4). With 15 wins overall this season, Doane has made a big jump from last season when it went 6-19 overall. The Tigers are 8-5 at home this season. They will be attempting to snap a three-game series losing streak to Concordia. Back on New Year's Day, the Bulldogs defeated Doane, 60-50, in an unsightly game. The Tigers did not score over the game’s final six minutes.

Next week
In the final week of the regular season, Concordia will host No. 25 Briar Cliff on Feb. 16 and then travel to the Corn Palace to play Dakota Wesleyan on Feb. 19. Prior to next week’s showdown in Seward, the Chargers will play three games this week.